The ECHL Board of Governors didn’t drop any bombshells at their annual Board of Governors meeting Tuesday in Henderson, Nevada. The major points:
• The American Conference is now the Eastern Conference and the National Conference is now the Western Conference.
• The West Division (Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Victoria) is now the Mountain Division.
• The Las Vegas Wranglers have a new ownership group, Wranglers Hockey, LLC, led by Gary Jacobs. Jacobs’ group also owns the Lake Elsinore Storm, a Single-A baseball team in the California League.
• A new franchise was approved to begin play in 2011-12.
Unlike a year ago there will be no realignment, no new playoff formats, and nothing that directly impacts the Reign – not this season, at least.
Reign president Justin Kemp declined to identify where the new franchise would be located because its owner wanted to “make a splash” with the announcement. Based on the fact that Kemp didn’t know which conference the team would play in, as well as this report in the Daily Herald, the likely bet is suburban Chicago:
The ownership of the old Chicago Hounds hopes a new hockey team can thrive skating at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
The unnamed franchise would play in the ECHL, which has 18 teams in the U.S. and one in Canada. Owner Craig Drecktrah has been in talks with the Sears Centre to bring hockey back to the arena for more than a year. Drecktrah ran the Hounds, which ceased operations in 2007 after the team played one season in Hoffman Estates. Officials are banking on some excitement left over from the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run.
For the Wranglers, the ownership change is significant, Kemp said:
“It wasn’t looking real good there several months ago. The one owner (Charles Davenport) had dropped out and the other owner (Jonathan Fleisig) didn’t have any interest in running the team. Being in Southern California, we didn’t want to see Las Vegas go away. It’s critical to (Orleans) Arena to have them as an anchor tenant. … They’re a proven ownership group. We think it will help enhance that rivalry. Certainly someone we have a rapport with, and is close to our community, bodes well for the future.”
In light of the 2010-11 schedule, in which the Reign play 37 games outside their division and 35 games within, there was a proposal on the table to eliminate the divisions altogether. Kemp voted in favor of the proposal, but it was ultimately disapproved by the Board – for a couple of interesting reasons.
“One, for those teams that like to put up a banner for being the division winner, now you would only have a conference winner,” Kemp said. “Two, some coaches’ contracts are based on winning their division. Would that change the agreements with their employer?”
Here’s hoping none of the coaches in the three-team East Division don’t double their salary for hanging a division championship banner themselves.