Sunday, March 1, 2009

More casualties of teams in minor league hockey

ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna was unusually candid in this AP story, saying the league could lose more teams during this economic downturn.

"The teams that struggle in a good time, they're going to struggle even more when the economy's bad," McKenna said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we have a couple more casualties. Hopefully we're better positioned for growth in the future. Our league having lost some struggling teams may in fact make us stronger overall."
It's almost a given that Wheeling will be one of those lost this offseason. It's implied by one of the comments by the owner in the same article.

"We want to do our best to keep some type of hockey team here in Wheeling because we love the community," said Jim Brooks, who bought the team with his brother in 2003. "But we need the community's help to do that."

Wheeling's facilities are very outdated, and do not attract players, to say the least. That franchise may fold or be sold. Mississippi is another team that due to travel costs, is on the edge. Johnstown has been hanging on by a thread for several years. They are averaging just 2100 in attendance. If they don't get the lease renegotiated favorably enough, they could move.

Abbottsford, British Columbia is a possible new location for a team if they do not get an AHL club.

The article points out that while other minor leagues have had a decline in attendance, the ECHL is actually up 2.2 percent this season.

Attendance at minor league hockey games is down nationwide. The only exception is in the ECHL, which has seen a 2.2 percent increase in per-game attendance after losing four of its seven lowest-performing franchises since the end of last season.

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