Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
October 4, 2021 - Atlantic League (AtL)
Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League's Charleston-based West Virginia Power, which is playing its first season in the league after losing its low Class-A affiliation in the former South Atlantic League, changed its team name to the Charleston Dirty Birds between games of a double-header earlier this week. The Dirty Birds name comes from canaries that were used in West Virginia coal mines to detect potential deadly gases and to determine if it was safe for coal miners to proceed through the mine. The team played the first game of the double-header as the Charleston Charlies, which was the city's former Triple-A team and used by the team for home games on Tuesdays and Saturdays during the 2021 season.
Arizona Fall League: After the AzFL cancelled its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced the 2021 AzFL regular-season schedule will run from October 13 through November 19, 2021. The AzFL will again have six teams with the Peoria Javelinas, Surprise Saguaros and Glendale Desert Dogs in the West, and the Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters and Scottsdale Scorpions in the East. Each team will have prospects from five different MLB teams.
Eastern Canada Basketball League: The proposed new ECBL, which plans to have all teams located in Canada's Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, announced its first team will be the Truro Tide (Nova Scotia).
Canadian Elite Basketball League: The CEBL's Fraser Valley Bandits team, which has been based in Abbotsford (British Columbia) since the league started play in 2019, recently announced the team will be relocating about 20 miles west to Langley (British Columbia) due to the arrival of the American Hockey League's Abbotsford Canucks team that will be using the Bandits' home at the Abbottsford Centre. The CEBL recently completed its 2021 season with seven teams and announced a new Scarborough Shooting Stars team and a Montreal team will be added in 2022. This summer the CEBL visited Brampton (Ontario) where it wants to establish another proposed team.
Women's Basketball Development Association: After sitting out the 2020 season, the semi-pro WBDA recently completed its 2021 condensed schedule that featured only 13 participating teams aligned in a five-team Eastern Conference and an eight-team Western Conference.
Maximum Basketball League: The semi-pro MBL started its 2021-22 season this weekend with 30 teams aligned in 4 regional divisions (North, Northeast, South and Southeast) across the eastern portion of the United States. The MBL season runs through January 2022.
National Professional Basketball Association: The semi-pro NPBA, which held a 2021 summer league with 11 participating teams, lists new teams called the Nashville Notes, Toledo Thunder, Knoxville Bandits, Kentucky Rebels and South Carolina Thunder that have been added for a fall season.
National Football League: The NFL's Chicago Bears have entered into a purchase agreement for the former Arlington Park horse racetrack, based in Chicago's northwest suburb of Arlington Heights, where the team plans to build a new football stadium.
Champions Indoor Football: The CIF announced its 2022 season schedule will feature nine teams each playing ten regular-season games from mid-March to early June. All six teams from last season have returned with the Dodge City Law coming under new ownership and being rebranded as the Southwest Kansas Storm. Three new teams called the Rapid City (SD) Marshals, Billings (MT) Outlaws and Topeka (KS) Tropics have been added for the 2022 season. Missing from the 2022 schedule are the Enid-based Oklahoma Flying Aces team, which decided to sit out the 2021 season; the Amarillo Venom and West Texas Warbirds (Odessa) teams, which played an independent schedule in 2021 called the Lone Star Series; and the proposed Denver-based expansion team that held a month-long name-the-team tournament.
Eastern Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level EHL and its lower-level EHL Premier recently started play in its 2021-22 season with 18 EHL teams in 4 divisions and 13 EHL Premier teams in 3 divisions. After only a few games, the league's Maine Eclipse (Biddeford) team has been dropped from both levels.
Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League: Canada's Junior-A NOJHL started its 2021-22 season last month with 12 teams aligned in six-team East and West divisions. The Elliot Lake Red Wings rebranded as the Elliot Lake Wildcats and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians moved to a different arena in the Sudbury area and became the Greater Sudbury Cubs. Due to cross-border travel restrictions, the NOJHL's only U.S. team called the Soo Eagles (Sault Ste. Marie, MI) started the season with all road games.
Ontario Junior Hockey League: After cancelling its 2020-21 regular season, the Junior-A OJHL started its 2021-22 season this weekend with 21 teams aligned in 4 regional divisions. The league's only U.S.-based team called the Buffalo Jr. Sabres is sitting out this season due to cross-border travel restrictions. Changes for this season include the Brampton Admirals relocating to become the Caledon Admirals and the Whitby Fury moving to Minden as the Haliburton County Huskies.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: The major-junior QMJHL started its 2021-22 season this weekend with the same 18 teams as last season and returned to its 2019-20 alignment with a six-team Maritimes Division and four-team East, West and Central divisions. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions last season, the 12 Quebec-based teams played shortened schedules within two six-team East and West divisions, and the 6 Maritimes teams played shortened schedules within the Maritimes Division.
Western Hockey League: The 22-team major-junior WHL started its 2021-22 season this weekend. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions, the ten-team Western Conference, which includes the five-team British Columbia Division and the five-team United States Division, will not play interdivision games in the first month (October). Also for this season, the Western Conference teams will not play any regular-season games against the Eastern Conference, which includes teams in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that are aligned in a six-team Central Division and a six-team East Division.
Western States Hockey League: After sitting idle for the 2020-21 season, the junior-level WSHL, which is considered a Tier-II league under the Amateur Athletic Union's United Hockey Union, announced its 2021-22 schedule that will start later this month. The league will have five U.S.-based teams in a Northwest Division and five Alberta-based teams in a Provincial Division. The previously announced Vancouver Devils (British Columbia) expansion team, which would have been the only non-U.S. team in the Northwest Division, was dropped most likely due to potential coronavirus (COVID-19) cross-border travel issues. Moving Vancouver to the Provincial Division would have incurred additional travel costs.
Major Arena Soccer League: Due to issues related to the coronavirus (COVID-19), Mexico's Monterrey Flash of the MASL announced the team will sit out the 2021-22 season and return for 2022-23.
Major Arena Soccer League 2: The MASL2 announced a merger of the Cincinnati Swerve, which played in two MASL2 seasons (2017-19), and the Milwaukee-based Brew City Legends from the Premier Arena Soccer League. The new Swerve organization plans to have a Cincinnati-based team play in the 2021-22 MASL2 and a Milwaukee-based Brew City Swerve team play in the amateur-level PASL.
USL W-League (United Soccer League): The new women's pre-professional USL W-League announced the Greensboro-based North Carolina Fusion and the Columbia-based South Carolina Bantams FC as two additional teams that will be part of the league when it starts play in the spring of 2022. Both organizations have men's teams in the pre-professional USL League Two.
Women's Premier Soccer League: The elite-amateur WPSL recently announced the Midwest Select SA Muskrats (Midwest Muskrats) team from Northwest Indiana (Dyer) has joined for the 2022 season.
National Lacrosse League: The professional indoor (box lacrosse) NLL announced its 2021-22 season will run from December 3, 2021 to April 30, 2022 with 14 teams each playing an 18-game schedule. The NLL last played in the 2019-20 season with 13 teams aligned in 3 regional divisions. That season was cut short and the 2020-21 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Since the 2019-20 season, the NLL added the Panther City Lacrosse Club (Fort Worth) and the New England Black Wolves relocated from Uncasville (CT) to become the Albany (NY) FireWolves for the 2021-22 season. The NLL is now aligned in an eight-team East conference and a six-team West conference. An expansion team for Las Vegas was previously announced for a start in the 2022-23 season.
Dan Krieger is the creator of the Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report, which has been tracking changes in the sports world's leagues, teams and nicknames since April 2007.
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