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 ECHL

Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
August 29, 2022 - ECHL (ECHL)


BASEBALL

Pecos League: Two new teams called the Lancaster (CA) Sound Breakers and the Blackwell (OK) Flycatchers announced they will be part of the independent Pecos League's 2023 season. Although there has been no official announcement on these teams and the league alignment for the 2023 season, it looks like Lancaster will join the California-based Pacific Division, while Blackwell will be placed in the Mountain Division. The Pecos League first proposed the Lancaster Sound Breakers in 2021 when the Lancaster JetHawks of the high Class-A California League lost its Major League Baseball affiliation during the restructuring of Minor League Baseball prior to the 2021 season.

Coastal Plain League: The Savannah Bananas announced 2022 was the last season for its summer-collegiate team that played in the CPL for seven seasons (2016-22). Since the team's start, it has operated both the amateur CPL team and a separate professional Savannah Bananas exhibition team, which played by different rules called "Banana Ball". This team played local off-season games against a team called the Party Animals and some tour-based games against independent professional teams. The organization will now concentrate on expanding "Banana Ball" to a year-round schedule for the Savannah Bananas professional exhibition team, which will play the rival Party Animals and other professional independent league teams across the country.

Prospect League: The summer-collegiate Prospect League announced a Marion-based Southern Illinois team will join as the league's 18th team for the 2023 season. A team nickname is still to be announced. Marion was home to a professional team called the Southern Illinois Miners for 15 seasons (2007-21) in the independent Frontier League. The Southern Illinois team will join the league with another previously announced new team called the Jackson (TN) Rockabillys.

BASKETBALL

The Basketball League: The minor professional TBL recently announced four new teams called the Georgia Soul (Augusta), Virginia Vipers (Winchester), Fayetteville (NC) Stingers and Charlotte Purple Jackets have been added for the 2023 season. The Georgia Soul was part of the 2021-22 American Basketball Association (ABA). The Charlotte Purple Jackets team is a combination of the TBL's Connecticut Cobras (Norwalk) team from last season and the Queen City Purple Jackets team that played in the 2021-22 ABA.

American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced new teams called the Bridgeport (CT) Kings and the Baytown (TX) Boom have been added for the 2022-23 season that starts in November. The ABA recently announced its first African team as part of the proposed new ABA Liberia league will be called the VIBE Net.

FOOTBALL

Champions Indoor Football: After playing only the 2022 season in the CIF, the league's Topeka Tropics team will not return for the 2023 season. The owner is moving out of the area and could not find local ownership to take over the team for next season. The franchise will be dormant in 2023 and could return in 2024 if new local ownership is found. The Topeka Tropics had an 0-10 record in its only season. The CIF played last season with eight teams and currently remains at eight teams with the loss of Topeka and the recent addition of the Wichita-based ICT Regulators.

National Arena League: The NAL officially announced the Fayetteville (NC) Mustangs as the name of the league's expansion team that will start play in the 2023 season. Fayetteville has been home to several indoor football teams over the past 20 years: Cape Fear Wildcats (2002-04), Fayetteville Guard (2005-10), Fayetteville Force (2011), Cape Fear Heroes (2012-19) and Carolina Predators (2022).

United States Football League: FOX Sports, which operates the eight-team USFL, has reached a settlement in a trademark lawsuit with owners of intellectual property from the USFL of the 1980s, so the current USFL will be able to continue to use the team nicknames and logos of the former USFL teams.

HOCKEY

ECHL: This week several ECHL teams signed affiliation agreements with National Hockey League teams and their American Hockey League affiliates for the upcoming 2022-23 season: Allen Americans with the Ottawa Senators/Belleville Senators; Rapid City Rush with the Calgary Flames/Calgary Wranglers; Greenville Swamp Rabbits with the Los Angeles Kings/Ontario Reign; Wichita Thunder with the San Jose Sharks/San Jose Barracudas; and the Atlanta Gladiators with the Arizona Coyotes/Tucson Roadrunners.

Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League: The Espanola (Ontario) Express of the NOJHL, which is a member of the nine-league Junior-A Canadian Junior Hockey League, has changed its name to the Espanola Paper Kings after the town's history in the papermaking industry. The Sudbury Wolves of the major-junior Ontario Hockey League announced an affiliation with the Paper Kings for the 2022-23 season.

Superior-International Junior Hockey League: The SIJHL, which is a member of the nine-league Junior-A Canadian Junior Hockey League, announced the league's Thief River Falls (MN) Norskies team will not be part of the 2022-23 season. The team sat out the 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and was only able to play 21 games last season before dropping out in January 2022. The SIJHL will remain a seven-team league with the addition of the expansion Sioux Lookout (Ontario) Bombers for the 2022-23 season.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League 2: The MASL2, or M2, which is the second-division indoor league to the Major Arena Soccer League, announced it will start its 2022-23 season on December 10, 2022, but the teams and schedule will not be finalized until after an upcoming owners' meeting. The M2 operated with 13 teams last season, but recently lost the Chicago Mustangs, Cleveland Crunch and Cincinnati Swerve to the new league called Major League Indoor Soccer. The M2 previously announced the Cedar Rapids-based Iowa Raptors FC has been added for the 2022-23 season.

MLS NEXT Pro (Major League Soccer): Officials from Major League Soccer visited Cleveland last month and held preliminary discussions with a group called Cleveland Professional Soccer about a possible MLS NEXT Pro expansion team for the city. The group also plans to host visits from the United Soccer League and the National Women's Soccer League about possible future teams. Cleveland currently has two men's amateur teams called the Cleveland Force (USL League Two) and Cleveland SC (National Premier Soccer League), and a women's elite amateur team called the Cleveland Ambassadors (Women's Premier Soccer League).

National Independent Soccer Association: The men's Division-III NISA announced the Bay Cities FC (Redwood, CA) has suspended operations for the remainder of the 2022 season due to financial issues. The team had played 12 of its scheduled 18 games and its remaining games have been cancelled. The NISA started the 2022 season with a five-team East Division and a five-team West Division. The NISA removed the Valley United FC (Phoenix) from the West Division late last month. With the loss of the Bay Cities FC from the West Division, the remaining eight teams have now been grouped into a single-table format.

OTHER

North American Rugby League: The proposed new professional NARL, which will play under the 13-man "rugby league" rules, originally planned to start play in 2021 with 12 teams across the United States. The league has yet to start play in a 2022 season that was to be a "soft launch" for the league. The NARL is currently comprised of teams called the D.C. Cavalry, Atlanta Rhinos, Toronto Wolfpack, Cleveland Rugby League and New York Rugby League.

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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