There has been some news out on the ECHL in the past couple days when it comes to markets that are looking to get into the league. One of the stories is good, the other– not so much.
The bad news first in that the mirage of the Reno market for the ECHL continues. It seems that Reno has been in the mix for the ECHL for the better part of a decade. There seemed to be some traction when the Reno Puck Club came to be in 2016, but since then– there has been some personnel turnover on the city of Reno side which has stalled a team getting into the market, while the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitor’s Authority is looking to get out of managing the possible Events Center that the team could be playing in. While some in Reno think this is just a formality before a team gets there– especially with Vegas being in the NHL and a perfect link to affiliation– I wouldn’t hold the collective breath of the area.
However, one interesting story popped up about a group trying to bring the ECHL to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labarador of all places. Since the St. John’s IceCaps are no more after Montreal moved their AHL operations to Laval, the Mile One Centre has been bare. There are two groups trying to get hockey back to the area, though– one of which is trying to get the QMJHL back into the arena, while there’s a second group looking to get the ECHL into the area. In fact, it seems that Dean MacDonald, the man heading up the ECHL St. John’s effort, thinks that he could ice a team in the ECHL for 2018-19 if all goes to his plan…which seems really quick and really quiet for all involved.
This story has had some rumors come out of it, but it’s never really taken serious considering how much of an outpost that St. John’s has been when it comes to minor league hockey. The fan base there is second to none when it comes to support, but at the same time, even with the Northeast expansion the ECHL has had– St. John’s would still be over 1,200 miles away from their closest competition, the newly-minted Maine Mariners. That’s been the problematic part with St. John’s being in the AHL and possibly the ECHL.
In all honesty, the QMJHL makes sense since there is a Maritime Division and there would be much closer rivals. Not only that, but the QMJHL could bring a little better profit with the shorter distance to travel, less player payment, and probably better turnout for hockey. The ECHL seems like something that would be lost on Canadian fans. There’s only one team currently in Brampton and only two in the history of the league– lest we forget the Victoria Salmon Kings.
Yet, the fact that focus is on the ECHL shows that there’s a really good business model that owners want to get into. Sure, the lack of other leagues help– but there hasn’t been much of anything to say that the ECHL doesn’t have the best model to go by. That’s one of the reasons why the Utah Grizzlies haven’t jumped ship back to the AHL and that’s due to how the ECHL works out for them dollars and sense-wise.
While we patiently wait for Reno and eyebrow-cock St. John’s, the fact that more people want to get into the minor league hockey business is a good problem to have for the league looking to keep growing from their 27 teams right now.