Minor League Hot Dish: Cups Held Hostage, Seattle Looking For Locations

I’ll start this off by saying the first I heard of this was from Justin Cohn of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. He kind of laid the ground work of it all for me and then the ball rolled from there. But if you decided to step away from Twitter and hockey for the summer, you’ve missed the fun of the Colorado Eagles, the ECHL, and the Kelly Cup.

High-speed low-down is that the Eagles won back-to-back Kelly Cups in the ECHL before leaving like they were CM Punk in 2011 at Money in the Bank– but in this instance, they didn’t return the Cup weeks later, they still have it in their possession. They said they had dates to set-up a return to the ECHL, but nothing came from it. However, the Eagles say it’s safe and in pristine condition. The ECHL said they never came forward with it and had to make another one because of the Eagles’ hostage situation of the championship.

Let this be a lesson to the ECHL and others that there’s a reason that Phil Pritchard is the Keeper of the Cup and has eyes on it at all times…ALL TIMES. Are the Eagles being asses about it?? Sure, but at the same time– what league just gives their prized possession to a team, especially one that is moving up next year– and doesn’t have a chaperone with it during the time with the team??

If nothing else, it has created a nice little buzz for the league during their Final, while also allowing the ability to have this made into some little documentary about what happened by ESPN.


Meanwhile, even though they are a couple years away, the Seattle Your-Name-Heres are looking at affiliation locations for their AHL squad. It seems to have come down to a couple of interesting choices among the finalist.

First, you have Boise, Idaho which currently houses the ECHL’s Boise Steelheads. The Steelheads have been a successful WCHL and ECHL team, playing to a nearly sold-out house on average each year. The question is when it comes to the ownership group thinks that the AHL cost structure will work better for them and if the AHL in general will be a good move for them and their fan base. You could argue that a move up is always a good choice for the legacy of the team– but there’s times it just doesn’t work out; hello Utah Grizzlies.

The second option is a wild one and it’s Palm Springs, California. It’s wild because there’s not many places to play right now unless the city build a new venue. There’s been talk of an indoor venue via the Coachella Sports and Entertainment Stadium Authority that could open by 2021, but there hasn’t been much movement there. Plus, it could be a harder sell for an arena that has little to no background in hockey. While it would be cool and I’m sure my co-host of “In the Draft” Wilson would be able to get to more hockey games– I don’t know if it’ll be the best fit when trying to make a successful team.

Given the options, Boise would probably be my choice because you’ve got a built in fan base there, though you’d be cutting off a rather successful affiliation with the Dallas Stars. Not only that, but the ECHL would have to really wonder what to do with the Utah Grizzlies being way the hell and gone from every other competition.

Putting the Minor Leagues Into the Mainstream

During the Memorial Cup Final on Sunday, NHL.com’s AHL writer Patrick Williams brought up an interesting concept when it came to the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals coming up and how to get some buzz to those casual minor league hockey fans.

Williams is not wrong. The AHL putting their games out there for free on AHLLive.com, but even with that, people need to have a purpose to go to that site and put in all the things in order to watch the game. It’s not like the CHL had in the US and Canada where you could be flipping around the channels and find themselves watching the game because it caught there attraction. Yes, you can make the argument that the NHL is not in and around many prime channels and you may need a reason to turn to that channel– but it’s still on TV is the point.

However, for the production value of the games will have to be better by ten-fold. On the AHL Live feed, all the things that are shown on the jumbotron are shown on the broadcast, including in-game graphics and promotions, are shown during the broadcast with the radio play-by-play being over top of the action. It’s not like you can see replay and have those plays broken down, so it’s a real disadvantage. Though, there are times AHL Live simulcasts TV broadcasts, but it’s few and far between.

At this point in the season, you would think that both the AHL and the ECHL would want to show off their product in the best of lights. The member teams, you would hope, would find a way to get a local TV station to help with the production of their game film and make it very presentable for a championship series and not grainy quality you’d expect to see in archival footage from the 1970s.

Of course, a budget factor would come into play. You wouldn’t think teams would have much money earmarked for the TV side of things,¬†though at this point in the season– you could splurgs for something like this. Plus, you’d have to imagine that if they got on regular TV, the NHL Network would be able to grab that satellite feed and broadcast it on their airwaves because, well, they don’t have anything else going on right now with the Cup Finals being the story of the next two weeks or so. Why not put the AHL or ECHL playoffs onto the channel to give hockey fans even more hockey that matters on the air.

I’ll always advocate for minor league hockey and to get minor league hockey out into the mainstream for people to not only check-up on their team’s prospects, but to learn about new players, areas, teams, league, and whatever else they can take away from watching the games. Making them watchable has to be the first step for minor leagues– first on a production level and next to get it out to the masses.

If there’s anything I missed with what the AHL and ECHL could do to improve upon their broadcasts, hit up the comment section.