NAHL Expansion – Contraction – And Relocation

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January 31st is a big day for the NAHL.  League meetings are scheduled to take place in Frisco Texas two days from now.

Whats on the table?

Every NAHL member team will be making their declarations for the 2013-2014 season.  Teams will be informing the league and its other teams whether they will play next season, relocate, or go dormant. 

Currently the NAHL has 24 member teams.  They have already announced the addition of the Minnesota Magicians for 2013 which would raise league numbers to 25 if not for the departure of the Wenatchee Wild to the BCHL.  

Long rumored to be joining the league were franchises in Laredo and Rio Grande Texas.  Rumors have now begun circulating that unless it is a relocation of an existing team that one or both of those cities will not get a team.

Other rumors regarding Port Huron and their ownership have begun again in Michigan.  Reports of multiple lawsuits pending while others are said to have been settled are said to be a topic of discussion as the league attempts to decide how to handle the existing ownership.  Attempts to sell the team to a new group have not been successful.  The asking price is seen to be far to high for a franchise that is seen as damaged.

Other rumors regarding Kalamazoo and Coulee Region have also picked up steam in recent weeks.  Attendance numbers for both franchises are of considerable concern. 

With the departure of Wenatchee discussion on the futures of Fairbanks, Kenai River and Fresno are also expected to be on the table.  Rumor of Fresno leaving, while another rumor of the Wenatchee NAHL Franchise Rights simply being moved to another location to help solidify the division are competing.

Also expected to be discussed is Dodge City Kansas.  1300 people attended an NAHL exhibition game in November of 2011, and many are wondering if it could be a viable location for relocation of one of the teams currently struggling.

Last year seven teams filed for dormancy.  Of the seven that filed, only four actually went dormant. 

USA Hockey put a rule in place that took effect last season which required teams to state their intentions by January 31st, for the following season. This was not a league requirement or a team choice. The petition for dormancy is one of three options.

If you do not file dormancy you must either commit to next season, or fold. If a team is in the process of being sold, or lease negotiations are ongoing for next year, there really is no other option for teams than to file for dormancy. This action is actually the most prudent approach. Rather than rushing a deal through, potentially causing long-term problems, or trying to rush a deal and have it fall apart, dormancy is the neutral option.

Dormancy is reversible. Teams can go back to the league with a solid plan to move forward, and file those intentions with USA Hockey. In those instances, those teams will move forward. Will every team be able to move forward?

This will clearly be another interesting meeting for all involved. TJHN will update this story as more information becomes available.