“Mean” Gene Okerlund always said, “Don’t wait until the 11th hour.” However, the ECHL must have never watch wrestling pay-per-views back in the day, as they waited until 10 days before their opening night in order to announce the absorption of the Central Hockey League, after many months of rumors surrounding such topics.
With this move, the ECHL will now have 28 teams for their opening night on October 17th. The ECHL, which is the highest number of teams that the ECHL has had since 2004-05 when the same number of teams were in the league before a slight downturn over the decade.
For the most part, this stops delaying the inevitable when it comes to the CHL, as it looked more and more like it would be the end result whether it be this summer or next summer, especially with three teams bailing out on the CHL this summer. This move also bridges the gap that some of the ECHL and CHL has, especially when it comes to Western teams in the CHL. There’s a bigger presence out in the west, which will allow some of the Midwest teams not have to be stuck in the same division as the Western teams, thus creating more travel and possible more strain on their finances. Plus, it helps the old CHL teams that are a little more detached from everyone else, like Rapid City and Brampton.
Of course, the big thing is how will the playing styles clash?? Some would say that the CHL was the lower AA tier of hockey, with the ECHL having more stress put upon it toward NHL goals. For CHL teams who already have a lot of their rosters figured out, it could become quite an interesting season for the new “expansion” teams in the ECHL. However, this could put to rest a lot of the bickering from the fans to see which tier of hockey is actually better when they see themselves against each other on the ice.
All in all, this puts to rest one of the most dramatic stories in the minor leagues this summer. Not only that, but it also doesn’t kill off any of the teams coming over to the ECHL, which could have happened if the CHL had actually ran through this season and then lost way too much money in travel and attendance to survive. Sure, there are teams that would have been great for the season– like the Missouri Mavericks and the three teams that are owned by the Steven Brothers (Wichita Thunder, Tulsa Oilers, and Allen Americans)– but to bring over all seven teams keep a bit of a unity there for the other three teams that could have been searching their couches for money to scrap by on the season.
Let’s just hope that this absorption doesn’t end up like the last absorption, which saw the CHL absorb the new International (former United) Hockey League, which saw five teams go over, but only one surviving in the CHL to this day: the Quad City Mallards (though two moved to the ECHL in Fort Wayne and Evansville).