The ECHL Board of Governors unanimously approved the withdrawal of the Victoria Salmon Kings from the league, effectively killing the franchise.
The move seemed inevitable once S-Kings owner Graham Lee decided earlier this year to move the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins into Save-On Foods Memorial Centre, giving the arena three hockey tenants for next season (along with a British Columbia Hockey League team).
Reign president Justin Kemp said in an e-mail that it was “a relatively easy vote.” Interestingly, he said the Board voted during a conference call nearly a month ago, but the announcement was delayed until today.
The Salmon Kings players all become free agents. That figured to be the case anyway, since ECHL contracts only last one year. But for ECHL veterans like Chad Painchaud, Ryan Turek, P.J. Atherton, and others who called Victoria home last season, the future becomes a little less certain. Be assured that the league’s other coaches won’t mind having this extra time to recruit the Salmon Kings’ best players.
Still uncertain is the ECHL schedule for next season. A Loveland, Colorado-based CHL team has been rumored as a possible addition, but that could be mere speculation. If the Western Conference is indeed reduced to seven teams, that’s almost a one-third reduction in size from the time the Reign entered the league a short three years ago.
A reduction in Western Conference teams from eight to seven would result in big differences. The pool of players would become smaller and the level of competition figures to go up (again), but the effects of Repetitive Visiting Uniform Syndrome will be felt in Citizens Business Bank Arena and the other six buildings. Would the current playoff format change? Would more Eastern Conference teams be included on the schedule?
Those questions can’t be asked and answered until the number of teams is finalized, and that could be at least a month from now.
By all accounts, Victoria was a beautiful place for players to play and visit. Aesthetically the eight-team balance out West could be restored with the addition of another club.
But good luck replacing this.