Icethetics Season Preview 2011, Part 2

Hockey season is here which means this "preview" is a few days late. Still, better late than never. Most of you will certainly notice some differences on the ice this season and that might leave you asking, what are those guys wearing? That's where the Icethetics Season Preview can help.

Yesterday we reviewed last season's NHL uniforms with a complete ranking as determined by Icethetics readers. Now, settle in for a week of detailed overviews of all that's aesthetically new and different around the hockey world in 2011.

Relocation, Expansion, Transfer & Termination

It's been a tumultuous summer across all levels of hockey. We've watched a lot of teams come and go. And unlike any other year in recent memory, this one captured the attention of — not just the hockey world — but an entire nation.

NHL: Atlanta Thrashers » Winnipeg Jets

On May 31, 2011 came the official announcement that the Atlanta Thrashers were over, sold to a group that wished to relocate a franchise to NHL-deprived Winnipeg, Manitoba. For the rest of the summer, questions were more common than answers.

Biggest, of course, was the name. Rumors abounded. The owners, True North Sports & Entertainment, wanted to keep the Manitoba Moose brand they'd built in the AHL, or maybe try a whole new identity, like the Bears. But in the end, the fans were the loudest voice. On June 25, the club's new management team took the stage at the NHL draft and claimed the first player for the Winnipeg Jets.

Immediately after it was prematurely leaked online, the Jets staged a last-minute press conference on July 22 to officially unveil their new logo. 

Finally on Sept. 6, the Jets revealed their official home and road uniforms for their inaugural season.

The logos and jerseys were met with mixed reaction, but how could they not be? Every Canadian hockey fan was watching and scrutinizing every decision. For True North, it was no simple task. It was the first relocation of an NHL team since the Whalers left Hartford for North Carolina in 1998.

As for the Thrashers, the team played 11 seasons in the NHL from 1999 until 2011. They outlasted Atlanta's previous NHL franchise by four years. The Flames were founded in 1972 and moved to Calgary in 1980.

AHL: Manitoba Moose » St. John's IceCaps

The ripple effects of the Thrashers' relocation to Winnipeg were felt far and wide throughout hockey. But the most immediate impact was felt by the AHL's Manitoba Moose, who were left with nowhere to play as the Jets commandeered the MTS Centre. True North, who also owned the Moose, decided to send them east.

On July 29, the official name and logos were unveiled for the St. John's IceCaps, beginning a new hockey legacy in Newfoundland.

It seems the Moose's existence has always been dictated by the presence of the NHL in Winnipeg.

The franchise was founded in 1994 as the Minnesota Moose of the International Hockey League, playing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. After just two seasons, they moved to Winnipeg, filling a gap left by the original Jets, who relocated to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996. Then in 2001, the Moose became one of six IHL teams to be absorbed by the American Hockey League.

ECHL: Comings & Goings

Every year, the ECHL is the North American hockey league that endures the most change. This remains true in 2011 as the ECHL welcomes an expansion franchise, a transfer from another minor pro league, and sees the demise of its only Canadian-based club.

The Victoria Salmon Kings will not be returning for the 2011-12 season, ending one of the longest lineages in the ECHL. And believe it or not, their demise is due in part to the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers.

In late spring, rumors were rampant the NHL was headed to Winnipeg, displacing the AHL's Manitoba Moose. Everyone wondered where would they end up. One option was Victoria, British Columbia.

The Western Hockey League had its eye on that market since its Prince George Cougars moved out in 1994. Not wanting to risk losing it to the AHL, the Salmon Kings' owner purchased the WHL's Chilliwack Bruins and brought them to Victoria, folding his ECHL franchise.

That very franchise was a founding member of the East Coast Hockey League in 1988. But at the time, they played in Pennsylvania as the Erie Panthers. They moved to Louisiana in 1996, becoming the Baton Rouge Kingfish. After sitting out the 2003-04 season, the club returned as the Victoria Salmon Kings in 2004.

Only three of the ECHL's five original franchises remain in existence today, none of which are still playing where they started: Wheeling Nailers (Carolina Thunderbirds), Greenville Road Warriors (Johnstown Chiefs), and Utah Grizzlies (Virginia Lancers).

This fall, the Chicago Express join the ECHL for their inaugural season as an expansion franchise, filling a minor hockey gap left with the folding of the Chicago Hounds of the United Hockey League in 2009.

On Sept. 21, 2010, the Express unveiled their name, colors and logos to fans. Despite using iconic downtown Chicago imagery in their brand design, the team plays in Hoffman Estates, Ill., which is about 30 miles outside the city.

A name-the-team contest was held during the summer of 2010. The finalists included Chicago Blizzard, Hoffman Estates Hammers, Chicago Knights, and of course, Chicago Express. Online voting was conducted between July 22 and August 4.

The club revealed its jerseys in late May 2011. Apart from wearing white and blue home and road uniforms, the Express will sport a grey alternate jersey featuring their secondary logos.

On May 31 the ECHL approved expansion membership for the Colorado Eagles, who transferred from the Central Hockey League.

The Eagles play in Loveland, Colo., about 50 miles north of Denver, and were founded in 2003. During eight seasons in the CHL the Eagles never missed the playoffs. They won two league championships in five finals appearances.

The new club helps the ECHL fill wide geographical gap between Salt Lake City, Utah and Cincinnati, Ohio. With the addition of the Eagles, the ECHL opens the 2011-12 season with 20 teams competing.

Trenton Devils » Trenton Titans

After losing money on their ECHL venture, the New Jersey Devils announced on July 6 they were suspending operations of the Trenton Devils, a franchise they purchased and rebranded in 2007.

However, the community wasted no time in saving the franchise as new ownership took control and revived the fan-favorite Trenton Titans identity. Many were left disappointed by the Devils' decision to rename the club four years ago.

The franchise was originally founded in 1999 as the Trenton Titans. They won their only Kelly Cup championship in 2005 against the Florida Everblades.

CHL: Change in Bloomington

The Central Hockey League lost one of its franchises heading into the 2011-12 season as the Colorado Eagles were granted membership into the ECHL. But that's not the only big change in the CHL.

Bloomington PrairieThunder » Bloomington Blaze

Following their quick exit from the 2011 CHL playoffs, the Bloomington PrairieThunder promptly folded.

Soon after, the CHL granted an expansion franchise to new owners who would put a team back in Bloomington, Illinois.

Technically, the Bloomington Blaze join the CHL as an expansion franchise rather than a continuation of the PrairieThunder — but they do replace that franchise, playing home games in the same arena.

The Bloomington PrairieThunder were originally an expansion franchise founded in 2006 in the United Hockey League, which changed its name to the International Hockey League in 2007. Then in 2010, the IHL merged with the Central Hockey League where the PrairieThunder played only a single season before folding.

The CHL will be comprised of 14 teams for its 2011-12 campaign.

QMJHL: Crossing Rivers & Borders

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will look a little different heading into the new season, with one team relocating and another taking the year off before relocating.

Montreal Junior Hockey Club » Blainville-Boisbriand Armada

The QMJHL club with the most cumbersome will move and take on a new name that's just as cumbersome.

The Montreal Junior Hockey Club, based in Verdun, Quebec, moves across a pair of rivers to Boisbriand, Quebec to become the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for the 2011-12 season. At least now you can just call them the Armada. Before, it was always awkward.

This is actually the second time this franchise has relocated. It was originally founded in 2005 as the St. John's Fog Devils in Newfoundland. The team moved to Quebec in 2008.

Elsewhere, the Q's only American-based franchise — in Lewiston, Maine — was purchased by the league this summer and shut down for the upcoming season.

According to the league, the Lewiston MAINEiacs will be resurrected to the start the 2012-13 season in Sherbrooke, Quebec — the very town from which it was moved in 2003.

The franchise itself is actually one of the QMJHL's oldest. The Trois-Rivieres Ducs were a founding member of the Q in 1969. They were renamed the Draveurs in 1973. In 1992, the club relocated to Sherbrooke and became the Faucons for six seasons. In 1998, the name was changed to Sherbrooke Castors. There's been no word yet from the league as to what the team will be called when it returns to action in Sherbrooke in 2012.

WHL: Staking Its Claim in Victoria

We wrap up the second day of the Icethetics Season Preview on the west coast. As mentioned earlier, upon witnessing the upheaval in the pro leagues, the Western Hockey League rushed to stake a claim in a city they've wanted to take back for 17 years.

Chilliwack Bruins » Victoria Royals

On April 20, the Chilliwack Bruins were sold and relocated to Victoria, British Columbia.

Immediately, the new ownership launched a name-the-team contest. The online poll included Victoria Capitals, Royals, Dragons, Force, Tide and Thunder. Ultimately, Victoria Royals was selected and announced as the team's new name on June 21. 

Along with the name, the Royals also unveiled their logo and dark uniform, which is based on the Tampa Bay Lightning's blue third jersey. The white sweater debuted when the Royals hit the ice on September 26.

The franchise was founded in 2006 as the Chilliwack Bruins, but when the AHL's Abbotsford Heat moved to the area in 2009, it led to a diminished interest in the WHL club, paving the way for its relocation.

I think that about covers Part 2 of the Icethetics Season Preview 2011. Here's what's on deck:

  • Part 3: New Logos Around the Minors
  • Part 4: New Logos Around the NHL
  • Part 5: The Final Edition of NHL JerseyWatch 2011
  • Part 6: Tributes & More