To say the least, there’s a lot going on in hockey
- Mac Carruth was named the ECHL’s Goaltender of the Month for January
- The ECHL added three new teams last week (Manchester, Norfolk, Adirondack) to replace three California markets (Ontario, Stockton, Bakersfield) that were essentially swapped with the AHL. The ECHL also capped the league at 30 teams, the same size as the NHL and AHL. Also, the Las Vegas Wranglers announced they are ceasing operations. The Wranglers were under a one-year hiatus this year due to the lack of an arena.
- With that, the ECHL announced a new divisional alignment. The Fuel will play in the Western Conference’s Midwest Division with Cincinnati, Evansville, Fort Wayne and Quad City. The Central Division will include Allen, Missouri, Tulsa and Wichita, and the Western Division will be Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Rapid City and Utah. The top team from each division will be the No. 1-3 seeds in the conference-based best-of-7 playoffs, with the next five teams in terms of points receiving spots 4-8. The Eastern Conference will also feature three divisions: Brampton, Kalamazoo, Toledo and Wheeling in the North Division; Adirondack, Elmira, Manchester, Norfolk and Reading in the East Division; and Florida, Greenville, Gwinnett, Orlando and South Carolina in the South Division.
- With the new teams, there’s a lot of learning for fans in new markets. ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna discusses it with the folks in Glens Falls and former ECHL players describe the league as “good hockey.”
- The Alaska Aces are staying in the ECHL for at least three more years. The ADN’s Doyle Woody also discusses that four teams from the east (which would presumably include the Midwest Division of the Western Conference) will likely head to Alaska for a three-game trip (and that it’s likely the eastern teams will make a western swing every three years, and the western teams will make one trip east each year). What that means is we’ll likely see more teams come through Indy next season.
- Amidst all the changes, the Quad City Mallards are saying their stability is key.
- The Missouri Mavericks are announcing today they have been sold to Lamar Hunt Jr., whose family owned the Kansas City Chiefs since their inception and has been instrumental in starting Major League Soccer. That move has been well-received in Missouri (and oh, by the way, Hunt mentions an NHL affiliation to help grow hockey in Kansas City, mentioning the St. Louis Blues as a possible partner. Missouri currently has an affiliation with the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, but the Blues’ ECHL affiliation is with the Alaska Aces).
- Fort Wayne writer Blake Sebring opines on ECHL players getting called up by and loaned to to AHL teams. In the balance between being a developmental league and a home for free agent players, he leans more toward the latter.
- A couple of former Ice players have received the call to the NHL. Defenseman Anthony Bitetto made his debut with the Nashville Predators on Jan. 17. Daniil Tarasov was called up to the San Jose Sharks last week and got an assist in his NHL debut Thursday night. They become the seventh and eighth Ice players to have played in the NHL (John Carlson-Washington, Torey Krug-Boston, Cameron Schilling-Washington, Joel Rechlicz-NYI, Paul Carey-Colorado, Scott Darling-Chicago).
- A few former Ice who are currently in the USHL are on the move. Defenseman Vince Pedrie was traded from Bloomington to Tri-City. Forward Mitch Slattery was traded from Fargo to Bloomington.
Other Indy-related hockey
- The Boston Bruins do a regular documentary show called “Behind the B.” The most recent episode, aired last night, features former IHL Ice player Dean Malkoc scouting games in Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. It’s in the middle third of the show, and gives some interesting insight to what Malkoc does now and how scouting works. And, as someone who was at Young Arena last May 20, seeing the inside of that place again brings back some really, really good memories.