First Month in the Sin Bin


So, it’s been a month since I joined and it’s been pretty solid overall. Here’s what you may have been missing if you haven’t checked it out yet.

-The Stockton Heat not only are going through a change on the ice in their league play, but also off the ice in renovations to get the Stockton Arena up to AHL caliber.

-The AHL schedule was announced and boy howdy, it’s as bad as you think it was and it will cause a plenty of confusion with math and stuff to determine the playoffs.

-With the possibility of expansion in the NHL, it means the AHL and ECHL will need expansion as well to have a “One Team, One Affiliation” gimmick going. Hat Trick Consultants are looking at different markets to see what is actually viable.

-And, it’s two weeks– so the podcast is up and going.

It’s been a great time and the people there have been super supportive and we’ve been noticed– with is the main goal. Hope you keep coming along for the journey.


Markets In The Market For Minor League Hockey


During the podcast, I had mentioned that Biloxi, Mississippi and the people of Southern Mississippi Hockey LLC missed the deadline to get an expansion team into the SPHL for the 2015-16 season. While that might be a good thing in terms of not having to throw together an entire franchise in a limited amount of time– it does bring up the question of what areas could be prime for expansion.

There are some issues with it comes to that, though. The AHL pretty much as their affiliates set, baring a western expansion in the 2016-17 season, though it seems that most teams have multi-year deals locked up already. The ECHL has mentioned they want to cap their membership at 30 teams, and with Worcester and Oklahoma City out there for the picking– you have to think they will be next and last for the ECHL. The SPHL would need either a link that wouldn’t be too far from Peoria or the rest of the membership– but odds are those would be few and far between.

All that aside– let’s speculate for some place; Worcester and OKC aside.

When the CHL was still a thing, there was a possible chance for Casper, Wyoming to join that league– at least they had thought. The Casper Event Center put in an ice floor for the possibility to lure a team out there. While it would be a great place for the ECHL to put a team to have a better representation and better link to the western US; the odds of them putting a team or have the appeal for the ECHL is very slim with better, more established markets out there. It would probably be more likely to have a NAHL or NA3HL team in the US Junior system to be there.

An old market that could creep it’s way into an expansion role could be Atlantic City. They had the ECHL’s Boardwalk Bullies for four seasons and have hosted games for the Albany Devils in the past years with some very solid turn outs at the Boardwalk Hall. Of course, they could very well be a relocation destination over expansion.

Reno, Nevada has been on the “Future Markets” of the ECHL website for years now and there has been no movement one way or another from them to actually make a move. You’d have to think that their fate would be dependent on getting an owner who is serious about putting a team there and if Las Vegas gets a NHL team in their future.

Now, I said I wouldn’t talk about Worcester….but I kind of fibbed. It seems that my home state of Maryland and the County of Worcester is looking into building an arena to bring a minor league team there. Hat Trick Consulting have said it would be a great place to have a team and a new arena, which is usually mostly known for summer vacation. They have proposed a 6,200-seat arena and the thought is to bring in an ECHL team, but will most likely fit with the SPHL more likely– but both would be hard sells. The ECHL is very limited in teams, despite having Norfolk and the Pennsylvania teams not too far by. That is, of course, if the Maryland Stadium Authority says it’s a viable idea.

You would also have to think that if Maryland would get a team, Richmond, Virginia would be looking to get a spot because they would be close compatriots. Richmond hasn’t really given a hint of coming back into the minor league circle after the Richmond Renegades of the SPHL ceased operations in 2009. Granted, Richmond has had a strong minor league showing in the past; but that’s not to say that people will remember those times or actually want to have hockey back that’s isn’t of the ECHL variety they had from 1990 until 2003. The same could be said about the market in Roanoke, Virginia; who last had a team in the United Hockey League in 2004-05, but couldn’t draw the same numbers as their ECHL predecessors in the Roanoke Express. However, if Richmond could get something going; you can bet that Roanoke– their fiercest rivals– would want to be right there with them to try and rekindle not only a solid minor league turf war– but also revitalize pro hockey in Virginia.

When all is said and done, this is just spitballing ideas about what possible leagues could do. With the leagues being as handcuffed as they are when it comes to actually going through with expansions really hinders any kind of process, but it’s something that could spark what little debate there is to be had. For all intents and purposes, these markets would most likely be a relocation scenario over expansion. Not only that, but when you look at some of the areas mentioned– it could be up to the SPHL to actually take the reigns in terms of finding markets to be able to grown their brand a bit more.

Mayhem Making Their Foundation


It’s a new dawn for the history of Macon hockey, as the Mayhem started their first true off-season with their expansion draft picks in front of a crowd at the local Wild Wing Cafe in Macon. The Mayhem couldn’t pick more than two players from each team in this draft, but they elected to only pick six players overall to put on their protected list.

On the marquee, the Mayhem picked up three-time President’s Cup winner and former SPHL First Team All-Star Ryan Salvis. With the Ice Bears this season, Salvis posted 45 assists and 57 points in 54 games, though he did go a bit quiet in the playoffs with only three assists in seven games en route to his third-straight championship. In his 244 games in the SPHL, Salvis has a total of 66 goals and 163 assists for 229 points.

The next member of the team is SPHL First Team All-Star from this year in Matt Whitehead. As a big force for the Mississippi RiverKings this past season, Whitehead had 21 goals and 56 points in 56 games, as well putting up a goal and two assists during the playoffs. Whitehead has seen his fair share of call-ups, though he didn’t get any this past season– he has seen time in the ECHL and the extinct CHL.

To start the blue-line off right, coach Kevin Kerr plucked Steve Bergin from Pensacola and Jason Cohen from Peoria. Bergin was the leading scorer on defense for Pensacola with 23 assists and 25 points in 56 games for the Ice Flyers. Cohen split his time with the Louisiana IceGators and the Peoria Rivermen, posting nine goals and 28 points in 51 games, while also receiving a call-up from the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL this season for six games, registering two assists.

To end the draft, the Mayhem picked up two players coming out of college. From Ryerson University in Toronto, the Mayhem picked up defenseman Mark Corbett, who had nine goals and 34 points in his four-year career at Ryerson. From the US college ranks, John McLean was selected from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. McLean, who is 6’9 and 210lbs, was 36-18-7 with a 2.00 GAA and .927 save percentage in his four-year college career, while winning two during his three-game stint with the Pensacola Ice Flyers this season.

While there is still work to do (of course), the Mayhem are getting their foundation strong and picking some guys who do have plenty of connections to players around the league in hopes of luring them to Macon and try to make this expansion team successful from day one.

Gauging The Fuel


With the ECHL All-Star Game happening on Wednesday (check your local listings), it also signifies the unofficial midway point of the season– though some teams in the ECHL have already surpassed the 36 game mark. Regardless, it could be time to see how the only expansion team in the ECHL (not including the CHL absorption)– the Indy Fuel– stack up to the last expansion team in the ECHL– the Orlando Solar Bears.

In this comparison, I put together where the two teams were at after the 38-game mark and a couple of other things that some people may enjoy or want to know or whatever:

Screenshot 2015-01-20 at 9.11.18 AM

As you can see, the Solar Bears did have a slight edge record wise, but overall didn’t fair too, too much better than the Fuel have had. In the 2012-13 season, Orlando finished with 28-37-3-4 record, 5th in the South Division and 13th in the Eastern Division; 17 points out of a playoff spot.

Currently, the Fuel are currently 7th in the North Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference, however with a three-game winning streak and points in their last five games, it seems that Scott Hillman‘s crew could be turning a corner and learning how to play as a full unit. Especially with 14 rookies on their roster and trading leading scorer Robert Czarnik to Ontario; the Fuel have come around with the acquisitions of Vincent Arseneau, Garett Bembridge, Kyle Stroh, and goalie Shane Owen; the team’s identity could be finally forming into shape. Owen’s contribution will be seen more in the second-half of the season, as the goaltending for the Fuel has left much to be desired.

Though the new playoff format for the ECHL changing from the top-eight teams in the Conference to top-four teams in the Division could hamper the Fuel for this season– if they can get a break here and there, they could close and maybe eliminate the nine-point gap that currently is the buffer between them and 4th place.