Despite an expansion in 2013 that introduced Brampton Beast – the first Canadian team – into the league, they’ve struggled to keep things running smoothly. The newest team, St Charles Chill only lasted a single season before announcing it was ceasing operations in May this year. And both the Arizona Sundogs (with their recent signing ex-EIHLer Drew Fata) and the Denver Cutthroats have suspended operations, although press releases indicate that they hope to return for the 2015-16 season.
But even if they do, they won’t be returning to the CHL.
As announced today, the remaining seven teams of the CHL will be merged into the ECHL for the upcoming season. Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder will be expansion teams for the league, taking the ECHL up to a total of 28 teams across 20 states and 1 Canadian province.
The 2014-15 season is due to start on 17th October, and the hope is that date can still be met. But there will be a lot of work to be done between now and then, including new schedules, divisional alignment and the format for the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
On the ECHL website, Commissioner Brian McKenna stated that “There will be logistical challenges in the short term, however, in the long term, it is certainly in the best interest of the ECHL, the new Members and minor-league hockey in general.”
No hockey fan ever wants to see a league fold like the CHL has done, but we – and the seven teams who will need to get used to their new home this season – can only be grateful to the ECHL.