In the past few days, there’s been some thing that have happened that may shake the minor league hockey landscape, both from an AHL and ECHL standpoint.
The first such move was the news that broke Wednesday night that the Albany Devils will be moving to Binghamton. With the Senators moving their AHL affiliation to Belleville, the ownership group in Binghamton had said they would look for a partner to move into Binghamton. With the Albany area not having solid turnouts over the past few years, it was only a matter of time before they were without an AHL team.
While the Binghamton side stayed true to their word, it does suck for the people in Albany who did wholly support the teams that came in and out of the Times-Union Center. The AHL has been in Albany proper since 1993 and in the area since 1990. However, in those years, the people never really came out to the arena to see the River Rats or Devils play in those times. You could tell times were lean when Albany and the Devils organizationw would hold games in Atlantic City rather than in Albany. Despite stopping those games, the fact they would take two or three games a season away from their home ice in the first place should have shown some danger signs.
As for Binghamton, this is a chance for the city to support the team, regardless of what NHL team they have in there. Through the Whalers, Rangers, and Senators, fans have in Binghamton have been very supportive of the team with at least 3,500 people turning out for their games. With the added note that there will be local ownership running the team in lieu of the Devils own people will keep that at-home feeling to the club and not just people put there from New Jersey to try and get the lay of the land. It’s a big win for Binghamton and AHL, while those few proud Albany hockey fans will now have to wait for their next team coming through.
An official announcement should come this weekend at the All-Star Classic events.
The next report comes from The Florida Times-Union that the ECHL could be coming back to Jacksonville. According to the reports, Jacksonville will be getting the team from the ashes of the former Evansville IceMen, who were supposed to play in Owensboro, but due to the lack of new arena— former owner Ron Geary needed to move the team, which will result in selling off the franchise.
Back from 1995 until 2000, Jacksonville was home to the Lizard Kings, whom had some great TV ads for their team. After the first season, where the Lizard Kings made the Kelly Cup Final, they missed the playoffs three of the next four season before suspending operations. Jacksonville has housed the Jacksonville Barracudas of the ACHL, WHA2, and then SPHL from 2002 until 2008.
The history in the area hasn’t been the best, but with a new landscape, there’s a possibility to have the team succeed now. Geographically, they’re kind of in a zone on their own. While it’s close enough to Orlando, Jacksonville is quite far from Estero and Gwinnett County, while the SPHL would be the same distance when it comes to distance with Macon and Columbus being the closest rivals there.
Of course, any movement will have to be approved and then delegated to whether or not it’ll work for travel, fan base, and all of that fun stuff.
Silly season is well underway, which should prove to be an exciting and nervous off-season for many markets who are wondering if they should put deposits on next year’s season tickets or not.