If you haven’t heard by now, you’ve probably been living under a rock, but the Arizona Sundogs and the Denver Cutthroats have both announced their dormancy for this upcoming Central Hockey League season. The move brings back a few memories of the Oklahoma City Blazers before their demise, with team and league officials all saying that they were going to play this season, up until the final bell.
Rumors first started on Tuesday night, after the Denver Cutthroats staff was told they were being laid off. The team and the league made their move official on Wednesday, with rumors that the Arizona Sundogs were very close to doing the same. After an entire day of back and between the Sundogs staying or going, the Arizona players were notified late Wednesday, and made official on Thursday.
This brings about an interesting situation for the Central Hockey League as they now find themselves with only seven teams this season. With the two western-most teams now dormant, the league spans from South Dakota, to Texas, to Ontario. Quite the large span, and one that I don’t see lasting too long. Some mentions have been made that it’s quite possible a third team goes dormant, but nothing substantial as of yet.
So how did we arrive here? Last year, both the Allen Americans and Rapid City Rush were accepted into the ECHL, and were ready to join the league. The CHL filed a lawsuit against the two teams and prevented that from happening, keeping them within the CHL. The Allen ownership group later sold the team to the current owners of the Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder (yes, three teams for one owner in a now-seven team league), while the league was sold to a group of the owners.
With rumors earlier this summer of the CHL “merging” with the ECHL, and word that they were still going on up until this last week, one has to think that the teams folding is in response to the vote not going the way they want. If enough teams go dormant, and prevents the league from playing, it’s possible this could be an effort to force the league to fold, leaving the teams free to join the ECHL, or free up the markets to join the AHL, as has been rumored to be the case in both Denver and Arizona.
Needless to say, the minor league landscape is changing in a big way.