The new hockey season is mere weeks away now and the 2009 Icethetics Season Preview continues today with a look at who's come and gone around the minor leagues.
Part 2: New & Dead Teams (Minors)
Teams come and go in the minors. It's a fact of life and it's no different this year. Here's what you need to get your season started.
We begin with the American Hockey League, which has seen four teams undergo status changes for 2009.
Adirondack Phantoms (relocated)
With the sale of the franchise and the demolition of their arena in Philadelphia, the Phantoms have been relocated to Glens Falls, New York for the 2009-10 season and renamed the Adirondack Phantoms.
The logo has gone largely unchanged however a version does exist which contains the word "Adirondack" above the phantom figure and the "Phantoms" wordmark below. In general, the team's colors have not changed but the uniforms have been redesigned without the purple.
Abbotsford Heat (relocated)
Quad City Flames
The Quad City Flames have been relocated to British Columbia after just two seasons in Moline, Illinois. The Calgary Flames-affiliated club has also been renamed the Abbotsford Heat.
The new logo was unveiled over the summer. It's largely a wordmark which incorporates a flying puck with a trailing red streak. It's one of the less-inspired newer logos in the AHL.
The Heat are the fifth incarnation of this franchise, which began life as the Utica Devils in 1987. In 1993, the franchise was bought by the Calgary Flames and relocated to Saint John, New Brunswick and renamed after their new NHL affiliate.
After 10 successful seasons in Saint John, the Flames went dormant for two years before being re-established as the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights in Nebraska. The team played just two seasons before being moved again, this time to the Quad Cities where the Flames moniker was brought back.
Texas Stars (expansion)
The AHL expands this season to Cedar Park, Texas with the addition of the Texas Stars. The franchise was granted a limited membership for the 2009-10 season so the possibility exists the team may not be around next year.
The logo is modeled after that of the team's NHL affiliate, the Dallas Stars. The team will even wear similar jerseys. The major difference between the logos is the typeface of the text and the addition of a second shade of green.
The Texas Stars will play at the Cedar Park Center which has just completed construction and opens with its first event this weekend.
Iowa Chops (suspended)
After just a single season of AHL play, the Iowa Chops will not be returning for 2009-10. The franchise has been involuntarily suspended by the league.
Though no more details have been released by the team or league, reports say mismanaged money led to the suspension. Because the league membership has not be revoked, the team could return to action in the future.
Last season the Chops were affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks but that agreement was terminated in May. Prior to 2008-09, the Chops were the Iowa Stars (affiliate of the Dallas Stars).
The ECHL will endure the most changes of any league this season. While two new teams will be added, six have been lost, due primarily to economic hardships.
Toledo Walleye (re-established)
The Toledo Walleye return to ECHL action in a brand new building for 2009-10. Formerly the Toledo Storm, the franchise was granted a voluntary two-year suspension when the team was sold in 2007. The new owners wanted to wait until the new Lucas County Arena had finished construction.
The Storm were established in Toledo, Ohio in 1991. Long said to have the worst-designed logo in all of professional sports, the new Walleye name brought a logo that was no less ridiculous. The highly cartoonish, yellow, toothless, hockey stick-wielding fish was introduced following the purchase of the team.
Kalamazoo Wings (league change)
The second incarnation of the Kalamazoo Wings franchise moves from the IHL to the ECHL for the 2009-10 season.
Established in 1974, the original Kalamazoo Wings were a member of the International Hockey League. The team was renamed the Michigan K-Wings in 1995 as part of an effort to expand marketing opportunities. In 2000, the team folded when the Dallas Stars terminated their affiliation agreement.
The following season, the UHL's Madison Kodiaks relocated to Kalamazoo and adopted the K-Wings name. The logo has remained largely unchanged in the last 35 years. Though it was originally gold and green to accommodate its NHL affiliate, the Minnesota North Stars, the intention was always to have the colors be red, white and blue.
Augusta Lynx (defunct)
The August Lynx became the first team in ECHL history to shut down midseason. Citing economic issues, the team voluntarily relinquished its league membership and ceased operations on December 2, 2008.
The Lynx were established in 1991 as the Raleigh IceCaps but relocated to Georgia in 1998 when the Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina. A local newspapers has reported talks to bring hockey back to Augusta in the near future.
Fresno Falcons (defunct)
Just three weeks after the Lynx, the Fresno Falcons ceased operations in the middle of the 2008-09 season as well. Also dealing with low attendance and other economic troubles, the team announced an immediate shut down on December 22, 2008.
The storied team was established in 1946 as a charter member of the Pacific Coast Hockey League and was also part of the West Coast Hockey League from 1995 to 2003 when the WCHL was absorbed by the ECHL.
Some reports say that if management issues are worked out, the team could return to play by the 2010-11 season.
Dayton Bombers (defunct)
Following the 2008-09 season, the Dayton Bombers relinquished their ECHL membership. Like the Lynx and Falcons, economic issues contributed to the decline of Bombers, who managed to complete their final season.
The Bombers officially ceased operations following the establishment of the IHL's Dayton Gems this summer, despite attempts to get enough season ticket holders to return in 2010-11.
Phoenix RoadRunners (defunct)
After just four seasons, the fourth incarnation of the Phoenix RoadRunners announced in March that the team would cease operations following the 2008-09 campaign.
Established in 2005 by a group which included ex-Phoenix Coyotes star Claude Lemieux, the team's name was taken from a franchises that was born into the Western Hockey League in 1967.
The Roadrunners later joined the World Hockey Association in 1974 and folded in 1977, just two years before the WHA collapsed. The team was re-established the following season in the Pacific Hockey League but lasted only two seasons. A decade later, the third attempt at a Phoenix Roadrunners club joined the International Hockey League. It shut down in 1997.
With Phoenix's NHL club, the Coyotes, in financial turmoil, this could possibly be the final season for professional hockey in Arizona's capital city.
Mississippi Sea Wolves (suspended)
The Mississippi Sea Wolves will not return to the ECHL for the 2009-10 season. Established in 1996, the franchise was preparing to celebrate its 10th anniversary season when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and forced the team to suspend operations for two seasons.
After just two seasons of play since Katrina, the Sea Wolves announced another suspension of operations. Should the team return to action, it will not be in Biloxi as the SPHL's Mississippi Surge are taking over the Mississippi Coast Coliseum this season.
Pee Dee Pride (defunct)
Although they haven't played a game since the 2004-05 season, the Pee Dee Pride officially relinquished their ECHL membership in June, terminating one of the league's charter franchises.
The team was established in 1988 as the Knoxville Cherokees. They later moved to Florence, South Carolina in 1997. The club was renamed the Florence Pride for just one season, 2003-04.
The South Carolina Stingrays are the only team remaining in a state which was once home to three other ECHL teams, including the Pride. The inactive Columbia Inferno hope to rejoin the league in 2010 along with an expansion franchise in Myrtle Beach. The Greenville Grrrowl shut down in 2006.
There are still more leagues to cover! Look for the new and dead teams of the IHL, CHL and SPHL to be added to this post later on tonight.
As promised, the continuation of Part 2. Here are the status changes for 2009-10 in the IHL and CHL.
The latest incarnation of the International Hockey League will kick off the new season with seven member clubs, adding two new teams and losing one.
Kalamazoo Wings (league change)
As described earlier in the ECHL section of this post, the K-Wings are graduating to a new league this season. The Wings joined the IHL back in 2000 when it was the United Hockey League. The name change took place in 2007. The league actually was founded in 1991 as the Colonial Hockey League and became the UHL in 1997.
Dayton Gems (expansion)
The Dayton Gems join the IHL this season filling a hole left in the market by the Dayton Bombers. The Bombers were an ECHL club until this spring when it announced it would cease operations.
The team takes its name from an earlier incarnation of the Dayton Gems in an earlier incarnation of the IHL. Founded in 1964, the original Gems played their final game in 1980.
The Gems are known for being the first team in North America to make helmets mandatory.
Quad City Mallards (expansion)
Another IHL expansion team is borrowing its name from a previous club — though the Quad City Mallards have a much better logo than the Gems.
The original Mallards were founded in 1995 in this same league, back when it was called the United Hockey League. It suspended operations in 2007 when the Calgary Flames moved the AHL's Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights to the Quad Cities. With that team now in Abbotsford, British Columbia this season, the Mallards are back — but as a new franchise under new ownership.
The Mallards unveiled their new logo on July 1 and their uniforms a couple weeks later.
Like the ECHL, the Central Hockey League will be undergoing several changes for the 2009-10 season, including the addition of two new expansion teams and the termination of three others.
Allen Americans (expansion)
The Allen Americans will begin play this season in Allen, Texas as an affiliate of the Dallas Stars and Texas Stars at the Allen Event Center. It was announced on April 15.
The logo depicts the outline of a white star which forms the letter A on top of a blue and white striped shield. It's actually one of the more solid logos we've seen for new minor league teams this season.
Ex-NHL defenseman Steve Duchesne is a part-owner of the franchise.
Missouri Mavericks (expansion)
In addition to the Americans, the Missouri Mavericks are also debuting for 2009-10. The announcement of the franchise's formation was made the day after Allen, Texas was awarded its team.
A local newspaper held a name-the-team contest in May and the name, logo and colors were unveiled in late June. The Mavericks will play at the Independence Events Center in Independence, Missouri.
In comparison with its sister franchise, the Americans, the Mavericks seemingly lost out in the logo department with the unveiling of a cartoonish, hockey-playing horse on top of the eastern outline of the state of Missouri. However unique, the colors only make the logo look like it was designed in the 1970s.
Rocky Mountain Rage (suspended)
In June, the Rocky Mountain Rage announced the team would suspend operations for the 2009-10 season, hoping to return to the CHL for 2010-11.
Based in Broomfield, Colorado, the Rage were formed in 2006 and, after just three seasons of play, were forced to temporarily shut down.
Unfortunately, we're getting to the point of talking about teams that have no real history, so I really have nothing to say to fill the space. Oh, wow that did the trick, didn't it?
New Mexico Scorpions (suspended)
The New Mexico Scorpions are another franchise taking a year off, hoping things will turn around, economically speaking.
The Rio Rancho-based organization is looking for new ownership, so if you're looking to buy a hockey team in the American Southwest and NHL won't let you buy the Phoenix Coyotes, check out the Scorpions.
The Scorpions were founded in 1996 and therefore have a bit more of an interesting past than the Rage. The team was first established as a charter member of the Western Professional Hockey League, which merged with the CHL in 2001.
The team announced its suspension of operations in July but is hoping to return to action in the next year or two.
Oklahoma City Blazers (defunct)
Unlike the Rage and Scorpions, the Oklahoma City Blazers do not anticipate a return to CHL action. The team shut down in July after economic issues made it impractical to continue operating. Oklahoma City is now pursuing an AHL franchise.
The news is disappointing as the Blazers were one of minor league hockey's most successful teams, winning nine division championships in 17 seasons. The club was established in 1992 as a founding member of the newest incarnation of the Central Hockey League.
The original Oklahoma City Blazers formed in 1965 in an earlier version of the CHL, which was originally owned and operated by the NHL and named the Central Professional Hockey League. They folded in 1977.
You'll find the SPHL section below in the morning.
We finish up the very long Part 2 of the Icethetics Season Preview this morning with a look at the changes this season in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Icethetics readers may be familiar with this league because...
Pensacola Ice Flyers (expansion)
...the expansion franchise Pensacola Ice Flyers irritated us by choosing the least-voted logo in an online poll held by a local newspaper. Not only were talented Icethetics logo designers spurned, but the general assault on our eyes left us with a bitter taste toward the newest aviation-themed minor league club in northern Florida.
The Ice Flyers begin play this season in the SPHL, filling the void left by the Pensacola Ice Pilots, who played their final ECHL season in 2007-08. That club was founded in 1989 as the Nashville Knights. They moved to Pensacola in 1996.
While there's no excuse for the logo, the team name is derived from the area's aviation history, home to the world famous Blue Angels, as well as owner Tim Kerr's long career with the Philadelphia Flyers. The "Ice" was added since the team was explicitly told it could not use the "Flyers" moniker by itself.
Mississippi Surge (expansion)
Another SPHL filling a void left in a former ECHL market. As mentioned earlier in this post, the Mississippi Sea Wolves announced they were shutting down this summer. The Mississippi Surge will now take their place at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.
The team's name and logo were unveiled on June 17 after a web-based name-the-team contest. The simplistic logo has been widely panned, but when placed next to the Ice Flyers' logo, it's no contest.
Louisiana IceGators (expansion)
Yet another past ECHL market is getting hockey back through the SPHL. In fact, the Louisiana IceGators are returning from the dead, in a way. The new franchise takes its name from a team that played for a decade in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The original IceGators were established in 1995 as a member of the ECHL. Despite setting regular season attendance records in the late '90s, which still stand today, financial issues forced the team to shut down in 2005.
Interestingly, the new IceGators club will be coached by Ron Handy, who played in the original IceGators' very first game in the 1995-96 season. The franchise will also be using the same logo.
Twin City Cyclones (suspended)
The Twin City Cyclones announced in March that the economic crisis was forcing the team out of business. The team shut down but reports have surfaced that relocation is a possibility for the 2010-11 season.
Established in 2005 as the Pee Dee Cyclones, filling the void left by yet another ECHL franchise when the Pee Dee Pride suspended operations, the team relocated to Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 2007 after failing to renew a lease agreement at the Florence Civic Center in South Carolina.
The Twin City Cyclones played for just two seasons before their demise.
Richmond Renegades (defunct)
The Richmond Renegades also announced in March that they would not play another season due to the downturn in the economy. The team was founded in 2006 and played just three seasons in the SPHL.
The Renegades were a reincarnation of a team by the same name that, you guessed it, played in the ECHL. That franchise played from 1990 to 2003 and was owned by the man who started the new franchise in 2006.
In between, Richmond, Virginia was not without a hockey team. The Richmond RiverDogs played in the UHL from 2003 to 2006. Sadly, the city's streak of nearly two decades of hockey ends this year.
And at last, that wraps up Part 2 of the Icethetics Season Preview. Part 3 will be posted later on.