What happened in minor-league hockey was rather breathtaking: West Coast NHL teams were tired of having no AHL affiliates close to home base and decided to take matters into their own hands. (AHL is the Triple-A of minor league hockey; ECHL is the Double-A.) This is partially an accident of history — when the International Hockey League folded, there was a gap in the West for high-level hockey — and partly a business decision by AHL owners to concentrate operations east of the Mississippi River.
So the NHL dictates terms, taking over ECHL markets and moving AHL teams. To wit:
- The Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals AHL franchise and will relocate it to San Diego. (Norfolk, by the way, was owned by Norfolk Tides/Albuquerque Isotopes/Frederick Keys/Bowie Baysox owner Ken Young.)
- The AHL franchise owned by the Calgary Flames will relocate from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Stockton, Cal.
- The AHL franchise owned by the Edmonton Oilers will relocate from Oklahoma City, Okla., to Bakersfield.
- The AHL franchise owned by the Los Angeles Kings will relocate from Manchester, N.H., to Ontario, Cal.
- The AHL franchise owned by the San Jose Sharks will relocate from Worcester, Mass., to San Jose.
To fill the void in three of these markets, the ECHL announced the following franchise shifts:
- Bakersfield, Cal., to Norfolk, Va.
- Ontario, Cal., to Manchester, N.H.
- Stockton, Cal., to Glens Falls, N.Y.
This is pretty major. The whole face of minor-league hockey has changed this season: at the beginning of 2014-2015 the Central Hockey League folded, with several teams absorbed by the ECHL.
As noted, we don’t cross-post much from our other sites, but we know some of you read them all. We’re working on a situation to address this in coming months.