The CHL has been hanging on for the last few years. Teams have been folding and switching leagues with regularity. Owners have jumped in and jumped out with just as much speed. Some cities arent sure who owns their franchise.
The ECHL Kelly Cup Finals ended last night with the Reading Royals campturing the championship. Congratulations to them and the ECHL on another fine season.
Within short order it is expected that the Central Hockey Leagues Allen Americans and Rapid City Rush will make official announcements regarding their membership in the ECHL for 2013-2014.
The CHL has already lost the Bloomington Blaze to the Southern Professional Hockey League. Leaving the CHL with nine potential returning teams for 2013-2014 after the additions of Brampton Ontario and St. Charles Missouri. Thats if everyone returns.
Rumors are still circulating that at least one more team will go dark or make a move to the ECHL.
How does this effect junior hockey? With the continuing contraction of the CHL into 2014, it is expected that more NAHL expansion takes place and long awaited USHL expansion becomes more possible.
In 2011-2012 the NAHL had 28 teams in the league. This was the number after a rapid expansion in preceeding years. 2012-2013 saw that membership reduced to 24 teams, and 2013-2014 will see the same number of 24 teams. While this lack of expanding numbers in the NAHL has been good for raising the level of play within the league, it has also kept some from playing Tier II hockey that otherwise could have.
Lack of USHL expansion has clearly raised the level of play within the league and has allowed older players being aged out of the USHL to go to the NAHL, once again making the hockey better. The USHL will be entering the 2013-2014 season as its fourth since expanding.
Hockey in general is simply getting better in the United States at a rate that junior hockey expansion has not been able to keep up with. Tier III hockey has become good enough to where some players being cut are simply not finding another place to play and are moving right on to ACHA hockey.
With the CHL lacking stability, there are prime markets for junior hockey teams to look at picking off. There are also fewer arenas that the CHL can look toward for expansion, they have already been there and done that. Make no mistake, the leagues days of viability have passed them by and many have figured this out.