The ECHL announced Monday that it has approved the Evansville IceMen to move to Owensboro, Ky.
However, because the arena where the IceMen plan to play – the Owensboro Sportscenter – requires renovations that will last beyond the start of the 2016-17 season – the franchise has been granted a one-year voluntary suspension by the league. The Sportscenter currently serves as the home arena for Kentucky Wesleyan College and Owensboro Catholic High School’s basketball teams, as well as a minor pro basketball team, and has a listed capacity of 5,000 for basketball.
Renovations will include an ice plant – which the building currently does not have – as well as a reconfiguration of the floor to accommodate a regulation ice rink – as well as hockey dressing rooms.
The IceMen announced their intentions to move to Owensboro earlier this year, after being unable to come to terms with the city of Evansville on a lease for the Ford Center, where the team currently plays. Evansville has since announced a Southern Professional Hockey League team to begin play in that building next year.
The announcement leaves the ECHL with 27 teams for the 2016-17 season. In 2017-18, the league is slated to have 29 teams, with the IceMen returning, as well as the dawn of an expansion franchise in Worcester, Mass.
In other news from the league’s Board of Governors meeting, the league announced it is creating a handful of new awards – for the best ice rink in each conference, as well as a General Manager of the Year Award.
Trade deadline: The ECHL trade deadline passed last Thursday, but only a couple of trades were made – most notably a swap between Evansville and South Carolina, where the Stingrays acquired Spencer Humphries in exchange for Brendan Ellis. The major roster changes to watch now will be the signing of free agents finishing their collegiate seasons – especially with conference tournaments wrapping up next week and the announcement of the 16-team NCAA Tournament field – and players being sent down from AHL teams.
Fuel notes: Forward Adam Lapsansky, who had 15 points in 25 games for the Fuel, has returned to Slovakia and the HC Kosice team, where he began the season. He was placed on the Fuel’s suspended list, which allows the team to retain his ECHL rights. That is standard practice in the ECHL when a player leaves a team.