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Tailing the Komets

Changes in the AHL

West Coast division setting up.

Obviously, these moves will affect some ECHL cities, and the league meetings have been over for almost a week, but all you hear is crickets from ECHL. Sure, ECHL fans are the priority.

If you were wondering, of the 30 AHL teams 16 are independently owned and 14 are owned by their NHL parent clubs.


Mon, 01/26/2015 - 6:13pm

Since this was a very poor kept secret, I'm glad some news has emerged.

I'm hoping that the ECHL would want to place a team in Oklahoma City.  It was the flagship of the CHL before the NBA relocated there.  Since the NBA, the attendance for hockey has dwindled.

As all this plays out, I hope that someone remembers Peoria.  Norfolk, if their fans accept the ECHL, would fit nicely with the Carolina teams and the whole southeast section of the country.

My biggest question regarding this "AHL" move is what happens with Alaska?  If the ECHL and the AHL are basically trading out the west coast teams, Alaska, by common sense, has to be made part of the AHL. (Travel costs would make anything else prohibitive).

Is the secondary goal to all this movement to create thirty teams (NHL, AHL, ECHL)?  If so, are there going to be some markets (present and future) left out in the cold? (No pun intended).

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 6:23pm

Alan, that is a great point regading Alaska. Logistically, its location will have to either  move to the AHL( Vancouver affiliate or if Seattle gets a franchise) or all travel in the ECHL would have to probably be subsidized and I doubt anyone wants that, or can even afford it. I see a couple ECHL teams having some stability issues, not just counting South Carolina. Always fascinating stuff, the ebb and flow of everything in a state of flux. Thats business. 

Blake Sebring
Mon, 01/26/2015 - 6:59pm

Alaska is going to be like Salt Lake City in the old IHL, out on an island.  It's going to be extremely difficult for the Aces.

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 11:20am

Yes, I remember.  In some ways the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles started the demise of the original IHL.  If my memory is correct, the ownership of Salt Lake wanted to continue hockey so bad, that they were willing to pay all expenses for the IHL teams to travel there. Their first year was '84-'85, I believe.

A couple of years later the Colorado Rangers (Denver Rangers) came into the league.  It helped defray some of the expenses borne by Salt Lake, in that they were relatively close together.  But egos took over and teams like San Diego, Detroit, Atlanta, and other big markets came into the league.  Then the league started to dream of itself as becoming a "major" league thus severing any ties with the NHL basically forever.

The "old" IHL cities became like step-children and it wasn't long before they bowed under the financial pressure.  Hence the UHL. As they say, the rest is history.

Maybe this is a simplistic memory of events, but the end result is something Fort Wayne fans have been experiencing for the last 15 or so years.

I'll never forget that ken Ullyot was against the admission of Salt Lake.  While he may not have known how it was all going to happen, he understood the "pitfalls".  In retrospect, the league should have listened to him. 

The whole journey wasn't a loss, however. 

If not for the fate of the league and its members, 'Icy the Eagle' would still be in Utah.

Getting back to the present:  If Alaska finds itself "on an island", they will have some very tough decisions.  To have a quality division, you need at least 4-5 teams.  It doesn't sound as if the ECHL will maintain its presence out west.  Without that division, either Alaska finds itself in the AHL or juniors.

I wonder what Ken Ullyot would be thinking.

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 11:38am

Geronimo will not be happy if Bakersfield is moved!

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 12:46pm

Whats even more amazing and of course that which led to the demise, was the player payroll of some of these teams back in the 90's. Some were close to $1,500,000( Vipers).  That would be close to $2,500,000 in todays money. Nuts! 

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 1:00pm

I don't really fault the ECHL for not saying anything about this, since they're really at the mercy of the AHL (and by extension, the NHL) on this issue.  Anaheim is putting their team in a non-ECHL market (where a number of minor league teams have failed, BTW).  Bakersfield, for example, can't proactively panic about their ECHL team going away until the AHL makes a move.

That said, those of us hoping for a baseball-like minor league feeder system are really fooling ourselves.  The players in the "E" that are on AHL or NHL contracts are mostly those that are too old for juniors but aren't quite ready to move up.   That represents about 6 or so players on each ECHL team with a single affiliate.  In contrast, every TinCaps player is owned by the San Diego organization.  We are a long way from having that sort of model in hockey and I doubt we'll ever get there. 

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 6:31am

I don't think that minor league hockey will ever look like minor league baseball. The AHL will always be the main feeder. The ECHL will be what it is now, a place to keep a few players that aren't ready and you aren't willing to part with them yet. You also have to consider the money that European teams pay that lure some pretty good talent away. The ECHL wants to be a place for young players to develop but in actuality very few will get the chance to move beyond a few games in the AHL. At some point they will have to relax their veteran rules to make sure the quality of the game stays high enough to draw crowds and to develop a few diamonds in the rough . I can't see 30 teams in the ECHL without more veterans.

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 11:31am

I think Okikibi hit the nail on the head with his comment. The AHL is the true developmental league as far as the NHL. The ECHL is a place to park some players to the detriment of the local fans. While I do think it gives us a chance to see some better talent the overall effect is too disruptive for the ECHL teams. The veteran players  are the way to build a fan base which increases attendance and supports the local team.

Anne Argast
Wed, 01/28/2015 - 1:10pm

Given realignment, where in North America would guys like Chaulk and Guy have played their last few years? Would an ECHL team have hired them, despite everything they brought (and still bring) to the game? This is the shame of the current situation.

Blake Sebring
Wed, 01/28/2015 - 1:14pm

Great question! They would not have, and not because they couldn't play, but because there would not be room for them, which is absolutely crazy. Nick Boucher, P.C. Drouin, all those guys. That's why I said the absorbtion of the CHL was not a good thing for minor league hockey fans. You'll never convince me those guys couldn't play at this level, but they would have been pushed out by the time they were 26-27.

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 4:36pm

Amen to Anne and her thoughts. 

There is a "richness" that has been lost in the world of minor league hockey.  That would be the idea of being able to identify with the players.  Teams like Fort Wayne (look up at the banners) can appreciate the fact that players, coaches and owners mean an awful lot to a fanbase.  By the same token, great franchises and cities can mean a lot to the players, coaches, and owners.  (How many players have made Fort Wayne their homes and still attend games regularly)?  A lot...and the way things exist today, those will become extinct.

Sad, but I'm afraid the ECHL brings most of this upon itself.  Blake has rightly offered that the ECHL is for the NHL-AHL first, and for its own fans last.  The IHL and CHL recognized the value of roster recognition, but circumstances definitely got in the way of their futures.  My own opinion is that the ego of the ECHL as an entity, and the ego of President Brian McKenna personally, is more concerned that the NHL is served by this league and not the fans who actually support it by going to games.

Awhile back, when the amalgamation of the CHL was being talked about, I stated that I hoped the "veteran" rule would be a compromise of 5, squarely between the ECHL of 4 and the CHL of 6.  Just by doing that, 28 more veterans would be eligible.  It has always galled me that a player becomes ineligible because he has been talented enough to play for X number of years.  Even the number of games it takes to become a veteran has remained the same.

The CHL was fighting for its survival.  I think one "AA" hockey league is exciting.  But I could never argue the fact that the IHL and CHL had some pretty good ideas too.  And this is where the ECHL has failed its fans.  By not learning, listening, and tweaking its thinking, the ECHL has fallen into a schism ripe with potential pitfalls.



Thu, 01/29/2015 - 1:03pm

Alan, the ECHL's business model has nothing to do with anyone's ego.  The ECHL does the NHL's bidding because that's where the money is. 

And, yeah, it's nice to have familiar faces from year to year, but (since we're enamored of the baseball model) the Wizards/TinCaps somehow have managed to build quite the fan base despite having virtually complete roster turnover every year

Blake Sebring
Thu, 01/29/2015 - 1:33pm

It's completely about ego. It's all the front-office people who think they can move up by kissing NHL and AHL rear ends.

Anne Argast
Thu, 01/29/2015 - 2:17pm

RonFWA, we're not keeping familiar faces from week-to-week, let alone season-to-season.

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 3:06pm

I loved the old IHL (no matter which version you choose), I fell in love with the CHL (originally thinking it to be of less quality.  Boy was I wrong).

But if you are under the mistaken thought that the ECHL isn't about ego, remember their mantra "the premeire AA hockey league".  In many ways they weren't "premeire" in my eyes, but it is the league that survived...and part of the fabric that made the other leagues better, was the idea that franchises recognized the value of customers getting to know its favorite team's players.