Minor League Shakeup: Where We Really Are Right Now

Over the past few days, there have been some articles laying out the author’s ideas for what they think would be a fine plan to make this minor league relocation/shakeup thing work. However, some of it doesn’t make sense, some of it can’t or won’t happen, but there are a few good ideas. The only problem is, most people aren’t very well versed on the happenings in the minor leagues. Here’s my attempt at trying to set some things straight, fill people in on what’s being said, and hopefully we can go from there.

The AHL West

Yes, people within the AHL have stated that there is an effort to move multiple franchises to the west in an effort to bring them closer to their NHL affiliates. There has been no word on exactly which teams are involved, or where they will be moving to. All of those so far have been rumors. There are eight Western NHL teams that do own their AHL franchises, of which are Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Dallas, Minnesota, and Winnipeg.

Early rumors stated that five teams were looking at moving their affiliations west, but more recent numbers have stated greater than that, but I have a hard time seeing many more than five or six moving west.

-Winnipeg is moving their franchise currently in St. John’s to Thunder Bay, Ontario in the upcoming seasons.
-Both Calgary and Vancouver moved their franchises to New York in the past couple years, but there has been word of out-clauses in their leases after so many seasons.
-The Dallas Stars just recently purchased the Texas Stars, and they don’t seem to be leaving the Lone Star State anytime soon.
-Minnesota recently moved their franchise to Des Moines, Iowa.
-The Oklahoma City Barons are already in the West, but the Oilers recently purchased the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL, (SPECULATION ALERT) thought to be a move in securing a west coast market.
-The LA Kings own the Manchester Monarchs (New Hampshire). They also have an ownership stake in the Ontario Reign of the ECHL.
-The San Jose Sharks own the Worcester Sharks (Massachusetts).

FYI: The other NHL-owned AHL franchises are owned by the New York Rangers (Hartford), New York Islanders (Bridgeport), New Jersey (Albany), Buffalo (Rochester), Pittsburgh (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), and Toronto (Toronto Marlies). The Hamilton Bulldogs are partly-owned by the Montreal Canadiens.

ECHL/CHL Merger

There’s not a whole lot known about this right now. The ECHL is set to begin next season as a 21-team league, and this season will introduce a re-aligned Western Conference that includes teams in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Las Vegas is on a suspended status.

The Central Hockey League is currently a nine-team league, with one team in Brampton, Ontario, a clear outlying team compared to their counterparts in Midwestern states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

The predominant RUMOR in this situation is that the CHL ends up ceasing operations, with it’s franchises being absorbed into the ECHL. But again, not really a lot to go off of yet in this situation, and who knows where it could ultimately lead.

The Speculation

The biggest points of speculation in all of this is:

-The western markets in the ECHL and CHL will become AHL markets, with AHL franchises moving westward. There’s a lot of markets to choose from, and no real word on which ones they could be. Big money in the rumor mill is on all three California markets, Arizona, and quite possibly Las Vegas.

-The ECHL franchises that were replaced by AHL teams head east, and ultimately take over the markets that the AHL teams left. However, (SPECULATION ALERT) this also leaves open the possibility of other AHL teams taking over what could be seen as a more desirable AHL market.

Conclusion

-The biggest hangup in all of this could tie into what I mentioned earlier in the post, in that only about half of the AHL is owned by NHL teams. In order for a team like the Coyotes or Ducks to move their affiliation westward, they would have to purchase an AHL franchise or convince an independent owner to move.

-The one absolute truth in all of this? There are a lot of moving parts, and things change in an instant. It’ll happen when it happens, and until then, my advice is to take everything with a grain of salt.

3 comments on “Minor League Shakeup: Where We Really Are Right Now”

  1. Well thought out, Eric. Unfortunately any scenario I see leaves Houston out of the mix for even AA hockey, but that’s what we get for allowing Le$ Alexander to totally control what goes on in the Toyota Center.

    Interesting to note that the Yotes re-upped with Portland but only for one season.

  2. Many, many rumors have been spreading around about similar scenarios in the CHL for years now, but that’s all they’ve been, rumors. I’ve also been questioning the ownership issues, it costs more to join the ECHL, & with teams struggling already, would it mean that teams would have to drop down to lower levels (SPHL, Juniors)? Also the Steven Brothers now own 3 CHL teams (Wichita, Tulsa & Allen), how will that go over with other leagues? I figured they’re getting by with it now because they are also part owners of the CHL.

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