It's not really summertime until there's an IceHL shake-up. So let it begin!
There's good news and bad news this offseason. I'll start with the bad news. I recently informed the league's 44 GMs that the IceHL will shrink for the first time since its creation in 2008 as we undergo contraction for the first time. On the other hand, the good news is that two to four of our remaining teams will be rebranded — which means more design contests! Details follow.
Four teams will suspend operations this summer. I know it sounds like a setback given our plan to expand to 16 teams in the IceHL World. But the league will be better for this in the long run. Currently, the IceHL is suffering from its own increasing bulk. The ever-growing league has become overwhelming to manage. Plus, the more teams we add, the less unique they become.
The IceHL began as a handful of intangible sports identities for the enjoyment of concept artists and self-appointed sports design connoisseurs — something the Icethetics community could call its own. But over the years a great group of fantasy hockey players has built up around it. Many GMs tell me they've never played in a league like it. The IceHL has sparked unique friendships and exciting rivalries. It has taken on a life of its own — beyond anything I could have imagined.
But what started as a single 20-team league in 2010 has grown to 44 teams across three ESPN fantasy leagues. The sprawl has taken a toll. We haven't had a Yearbook since before the IceHL World launched. It's gotten too big for its own good.
In order for me to be a better commissioner, the league needs to be a bit more manageable. Not a lot, just a bit. A huge help for me would be scaling back to two ESPN leagues — as it was from 2011 to 2015. Unfortunately, ESPN caps its leagues at 20 teams. If we were to merge the IceHL World teams into the IceHL East and West, we'd be just two teams over on both sides.
To that end, this summer, your vote will officially assign four existing teams to "inactive" status — a temporary designation so as to leave the door open for a potential return to action in the future. (Stick tap to Houston Hellcats GM Michael Marchand for helping me come to this conclusion.)
While the community will select the teams to be deactivated, there is a caveat. Not all teams are eligible for inactive status. For example, any team that's ever won a league championship is safe — as are teams managed by GMs who have been with the league since the first fantasy season in 2010-11. There will be a total of 17 protected teams, with 27 left over — nine from each conference.
Voting will begin on Sun., June 5. Details on the voting process will be revealed soon.
The general managers have been notified of these plans and have had the chance to offer their feedback. I don't foresee the need to force any GMs into unwanted retirement since we typically see a handful voluntarily step down every summer. But if we don't have at least four departures, I'll work things out with the GMs to reach the number we need in a method that's as fair as possible.
The odds of adding any new GMs for the 2016-17 seems slim at this point, though not impossible. However, should the need arise for new GMs, we do have a waiting list of six Reserves at present. Because of all this, it's unlikely any new applications will be taken this summer.
Rebranding & Realignment
Reducing the league to 40 teams may be a bit of a downer, so to lift everyone's spirits and inject some new excitement into the league, there will be a summer design contest!
Two to four teams will be rebranded this summer. Your vote will help determine which teams are most in need of a new look — and possibly a new location as well. At least two teams will go through this process, but depending on how the votes go, there may be as many as four.
Like the contraction process, not all teams will be eligible for rebranding. In addition to the teams protected from contraction, any team that's been rebranded in the past or has less than three years in the league will also be ineligible.
It all shakes out to a total of 8 to 10 teams that will be considered for rebranding. The final list and details of the voting process will be revealed soon.
If any teams are to be relocated, conference realignment may be required, especially after the absorption of any IceHL World teams that are not contracted. This may result in a team previously in the IceHL West moving to the East, or vice versa.
Again, with regard to GMs, they are aware of these possibilities. Some may have to end up choosing between sticking with a team and giving up their roster or keeping their roster but adopting a new name for their team. As always, the GMs are tasked only with managing rosters and have no official voice in the voting process (apart from casting votes like any other member of the community).
This is subject to change, of course, but here's our tentative 12-week plan for the summer.
- Week of June 5 — Contraction Voting, Round 1
- Week of June 12 — Contraction Voting, Round 2
- Sat, June 18 — Official announcement of contracted teams
- Week of June 19 — Rebranding Vote, Round 1
- Week of June 26 — Rebranding Vote, Round 2
- Week of July 3 — Relocation Vote
- Week of July 10 — Name Submissions
- Week of July 17 — Name Voting
- Sun, July 24 — Official announcement of new team names
- July 24 – Aug 5 — Logo Submissions (2 weeks)
- Week of Aug 7 — Logo Voting
- Sun, Aug 14 — Official unveiling of winning logos
- Week of Aug 14 — Jersey Submissions
- Week of Aug 21 — Jersey Voting
- Sun, Aug 28 — Official unveiling of winning jerseys
So as usual, summer will be busy around here!
Let me know what you think of the plans in the comments. And check back soon for details on how the voting will work for contraction and rebranding.