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Realign the minor leagues

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02-27-2013, 12:11 PM
  #1
tarheelhockey
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Realign the minor leagues

As mentioned in another thread, minor league hockey has expanded so much in the past 20 years that it has become geographically inefficient. You have the ECHL, which operates on tight margins, sending teams on coast-to-coast road trips. You have the AHL building divisions with teams thousands of miles apart. It doesn't make sense from a business perspective, and is borne largely out of past competition between multiple minor leagues in the same tier (think AHL vs IHL, ECHL vs CHL).

How would you re-align the minor leagues in order to bring some sanity back to their geographic distribution? Here's my first crack at it, flame away or share your own...


AAA - EAST
Bridgeport, CT
Charlotte, NC
Gwinnett/Atlanta, GA
Hamilton, ON
Hartford, CT
Hershey, PA
Orlando, FL
Providence, RI
Norfolk, VA
Rochester, NY
St. John's, NL
Toronto, ON
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA

AAA - WEST
Anchorage, AK
Austin, TX
Chicago, IL
Cleveland, OH
Fort Wayne, IN
Grand Rapids, MI
Houston, TX
Milwaukee, WI
Oklahoma City, OK
Ontario, CA
Peoria, IL
San Antonio, TX
Stockton, CA
Windsor, CO


AA - EAST
Glens Falls, NY
Albany, NY
Binghamton, NY
Brampton, ON
Charleston, SC
Elmira, NY
Fayetteville, NC
Greenville, SC
Memphis, TN
Reading, PA
Springfield, MA
Trenton, NJ
Worcester, MA

AA - WEST
Abbotsford, BC
Bakersfield, CA
Boise, ID
Cincinnati, OH
Evansville, IN
Independence, MO
Kalamazoo, MI
Las Vegas, NV
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco, CA
St. Charles, MO
Toledo, OH
Wichita, KS


A - EAST
Augusta, GA
Biloxi, MS
Columbus, GA
Fort Myers, FL
Huntsville, AL
Knoxville, TN
Lafayette, LA
Pensacola, FL
Wheeling, WV

A - WEST
Allen, TX
Bloomington, IL
Denver, CO
Fort Worth, TX
Prescott, AZ
Quad City, IL
Rapid City, SD
Tulsa, OK



This arrangement assumes no expansion or contraction, and for the most part is based on attendance figures. There are a few exceptions, ie Hartford vs Toledo.


Last edited by tarheelhockey: 02-28-2013 at 09:32 AM.
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02-27-2013, 12:44 PM
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LadyStanley
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Considering the NHL Sharks (parent) own their AHL affiliate in Worcester, MA, how are you handling that as I do not see them in your list. (And they have a lease that runs 5+ years more.)

And I'd assume any existing AHL, ECHL and/or CHL teams not where you've got them located and owned by NHL team may or may not be relocating. "Locally" owned franchises affiliate with NHL, AHL and/or ECHL entities; if you've "moved" them, what ownership groups are you counting on?

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02-27-2013, 01:01 PM
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tarheelhockey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LadyStanley View Post
Considering the NHL Sharks (parent) own their AHL affiliate in Worcester, MA, how are you handling that as I do not see them in your list. (And they have a lease that runs 5+ years more.)
Yikes... that was a total oversight. I was working with 4 or 5 lists of teams at one point, and must have just skipped them accidentally. Based on attendance I'd think they'd slot into the AA-East league, as part of what looks like a pretty clear Northern division there.

I basically ignored the real-world aspects of NHL ownership and affiliation, under the assumption that those logistics would be worked out by a secret task force of elves and unicorns

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02-27-2013, 02:15 PM
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Big McLargehuge
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Too much of a logistical nightmare with ownership and the like being involved...they're in too deep at this point to just 'fix' things overnight. The league does need to do something to get more of a western presence...but short of the league itself buying franchises that are for sale and installing them elsewhere it's hard to imagine that happening.

Where's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton? One of the best fan supported teams in the AHL and owned by the Penguins. Considering the WBS Penguins give the Pittsburgh Penguins a presence in NEPA over our division rivals I think it's safe to say Lemieux & Burkle aren't looking to move that franchise.

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02-27-2013, 02:51 PM
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tarheelhockey
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If there are any teams missing, it's because I simply overlooked them while re-arranging that list umpteen times. Worcester and Wilkes-Barre are in that category.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton seems like a solid AHL market to me.

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02-27-2013, 03:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
If there are any teams missing, it's because I simply overlooked them while re-arranging that list umpteen times. Worcester and Wilkes-Barre are in that category.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton seems like a solid AHL market to me.
I'd wouldn't realign it, tarheel, too many issues with markets who have been burned previously or have elected to not go w/ pro hockey as a primary tenant, it took the demise of the original IHL to even get the AHL anywhere near 30, let alone the ECHL which has 25 now active

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02-27-2013, 03:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
I basically ignored the real-world aspects of NHL ownership and affiliation, under the assumption that those logistics would be worked out by a secret task force of elves and unicorns
well, maybe this should be on the fantasy board then. roll a d20.

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02-27-2013, 04:01 PM
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If there were hockey executives with similar visions to create two to three regional minor hockey leagues similar to minor league baseball (30 AAA teams in 2 leagues and 30 AA teams in three leagues), it might work. Ideally, with 30 NHL franchises, the current minor league system should have as many teams. Currently, the AHL has 30 teams, the ECHL has 23 teams.

With the AHL/IHL merger from 2001-2002, several franchise moves in the past decade and a few notable teams folding in the ECHL despite some attendance success, a major reconfiguring of the minor league hockey would be a challenge. I like the idea but I don't think that project can be a success without a lot of unforeseen mistakes along the way.

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02-27-2013, 05:13 PM
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tarheelhockey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saskganesh View Post
well, maybe this should be on the fantasy board then. roll a d20.
I thought it was obvious from the outset that this would be a fantasy scenario.

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02-27-2013, 09:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmjevtwa View Post
If there were hockey executives with similar visions to create two to three regional minor hockey leagues similar to minor league baseball (30 AAA teams in 2 leagues and 30 AA teams in three leagues), it might work. Ideally, with 30 NHL franchises, the current minor league system should have as many teams. Currently, the AHL has 30 teams, the ECHL has 23 teams.

With the AHL/IHL merger from 2001-2002, several franchise moves in the past decade and a few notable teams folding in the ECHL despite some attendance success, a major reconfiguring of the minor league hockey would be a challenge. I like the idea but I don't think that project can be a success without a lot of unforeseen mistakes along the way.
actually 25, w/ SF/Orlando aboard this season

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02-27-2013, 09:53 PM
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It's the travel that kills these guys. Rather than having an AA and an A level, it'd make more sense to combine them based on travel and work from there. The only reason the SPHL exists is simply because those are teams that might be in the ECHL if not for the fact the league is so spread out.

If there was an east, west and a central league at the ECHL level it would be borderline functional, but travel is what kills the teams in the minors.

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02-27-2013, 10:06 PM
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It would be so much work to do this. Only reason it exists in baseball is because this is how it's always done. To do this, you would have to have the league buy every single minor league team, reallign them to fit a baseball esque system, then find buyers for all the teams, whether it's private or an NHL team. Besides, most legitimate prospects unless they're a goalie never spend time below the AHL. There would be no point doing this.

Might be nice, but it's too much of a logistical nightmare, and it's not needed.

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02-27-2013, 10:32 PM
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Hamilton?

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02-27-2013, 10:43 PM
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Uh..... that's not realignment. That's blowing up everything.

I think that the eventual future of the minors is for the AHL to remain 1:1 with the NHL and the ECHL to eventually absorb the CHL and also become 1:1 at some point down the road. Doubt we'll see much radical change, beyond a team folding or relocating here or there.

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02-27-2013, 10:52 PM
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The only team getting seriously screwed AHL is abbotsford. The're ina divsion in which the remaining teams 3 time zones away (if I'm not mistaken).

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02-28-2013, 08:47 AM
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Grand Rapids?

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02-28-2013, 08:51 AM
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saskganesh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
I thought it was obvious from the outset that this would be a fantasy scenario.
I'm all for speculation but this scenario just seems like a glib map drawing exercise. It could be that I'm burnt out on the interminable realignment threads.

Anyhow, don't want to threadcrap.

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02-28-2013, 09:34 AM
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tarheelhockey
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I've updated the OP to include the AHL teams that have been mentioned which were left off the first version.

saskganesh, you're right that to some extent it's a map-drawing exercise... I like drawing maps It's also a way to possibly learn a bit about the minor league markets, which ones are suitable for which level, which ones rely on deep rivalries, etc. I certainly didn't know that the Sharks owned the Worcester franchise.

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02-28-2013, 09:57 AM
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LadyStanley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
I certainly didn't know that the Sharks owned the Worcester franchise.
If you check the stickied BOH information thread, the franchise information table includes known ownership of AHL and/or ECHL franchises by their NHL parent.

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02-28-2013, 10:09 AM
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Again, can't see this happening. Especially with the ECHL performing so well.

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02-28-2013, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHRDANHUTCH View Post
actually 25, w/ SF/Orlando aboard this season
From the ECHL Conference Standings page (2012-13 season):

Eastern Conference: 14 teams
Western Conference: 9 teams
Total: 23 teams

The previous season had 20 ECHL teams. Four teams were added for this season (SF, Orlando, Ft. Wayne and Evansville) and one team folded (Chicago).

One suspended franchise is scheduled to return for the 2013-14 season, which would make it 24 ECHL teams.


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02-28-2013, 12:31 PM
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The only anomaly in the AHL is Abbotsford. They're being sold and moved to Utica, NY apparently so that'll soon be gone.

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02-28-2013, 02:36 PM
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Worcester should be AAA, there attendance is not good this year but has been in recent years of success. Portland, Me is the only ticket in town and should be in AA, I do like your premise though. Alaska going to play in Florida makes zero sense when your operating on peanuts

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02-28-2013, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmjevtwa View Post
From the ECHL Conference Standings page (2012-13 season):

Eastern Conference: 14 teams
Western Conference: 9 teams
Total: 23 teams

The previous season had 20 ECHL teams. Four teams were added for this season (SF, Orlando, Ft. Wayne and Evansville) and one team folded (Chicago).

One suspended franchise is scheduled to return for the 2013-14 season, which would make it 24 ECHL teams.
suspended or dormant franchises don't count, gm, it is 25 w/ the addition of SF and Orlando, and doesn't count the two from the CHL THAT WERE TRANSFERRED....

NEVER Bet on a suspended/dormant franchise returning once it has been suspended, either..... the ECHL IS IN THE SAME POSITION the AHL was in the late 70s, when Portland originally joined, not the relocated franchise that was originally from Baltimore that's been here 20 years.

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02-28-2013, 03:40 PM
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CHRDANHUTCH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shrimper View Post
The only anomaly in the AHL is Abbotsford. They're being sold and moved to Utica, NY apparently so that'll soon be gone.
DENIED, Shrimper, remember Calgary and FVE know nothing about that rumor, which that's all it is., if that was the case how come TNSE survives w/ the transferred Moose in St. John's ONCE they bought Atlanta, since both the Heat and Ice Caps have subsidized travel for visiting teams(hence why you see them play on successive nights, much like how Alaska, and the Western ECHL teams do 3 game series, much the same way.

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