Beyond The Benches

CHL Fighting To Stay Afloat

The Central Hockey League is getting set to begin it’s 23rd season of existence and once again the headlines running through the league are focused teams having recently been relinquished from the league. The issue of contraction in the CHL has been a key issue over the last few years, however they are not the only minor league professional hockey association to fall on difficult times on a yearly basis. Relocation and removal is a constant issue in the ECHL and SPHL as well.

It seems for the most part that when a team goes down due to relocation or contraction, there is another city or region that comes along seeking to build up a hockey fanbase in a new market. There is still hope for the Denver Cutthroats and Arizona Sundogs to potentially make a return the following season, yet uncertainty seems to cloud the possibility of this happening.

Even with the sudden news of franchises having to cease business operations for the upcoming season, the CHL central offices have done an admirable job of putting the pieces together to divert the attention away from some of the harsh realities of professional minor league hockey through creating an all new schedule and playoff format for the upcoming season.

Of course the CHL would have hoped for more teams to be present this upcoming season, but now presents an opportunity for a higher quality of product on ice for the seven remaining teams in the league. Since all players from the now three defunct players were declared free agents, we have seen a few teams already dip into what was a talent rich pool. The sudden increase in available talent should result in stronger rosters and better competition on the ice which should hopefully lead to better attendance and more of a following for the seven remaining teams in the league.

Quad City Mallards President Bob McNamara brought up this point recently to the Quad City Times reporter Bobby Metcalf.

When the CHL started back up in 1992, it was a six-team league but grew into what seemed to be a stable 17-team league in 2003. It enjoyed some sustained success, but after the 2010-11 season, the numbers fell drastically, leaving the league now with just one more team than it had 22 years ago.”

There’s no question these are dark times for the Central Hockey League, however the central offices and remaining teams seem to be optimistic and confident in the CHL being in existence for years to come. The sad truth is though that if the numbers and recent trends continue as they have been, the league might be on borrowed time.



Staff writer: Michael Memmolo is a passionate hockey fan who loves to share thoughts & opinions regarding everything having to do with the sport; especially when it has to do with the Boston Bruins. Mike lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts, with his fiance Julie and their dog Graham.  He can be reached on Twitter @btownpucks.

(Photo Credit: CHL via Twitter)