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CHL Team Map

CHL Team Map — Courtesy of the CHL.

Update August 9: Doug Cook’s article “Sundogs GM says club to remain in CHL despite rumors of league’s demise” (in The Daily Courier). The CHL and the Coyotes did not respond to Cook’s requests for comments.


Change has been in the wind for the Central Hockey League for a couple of years now. Last year the news came out that two teams, the Allen Americans and Rapid City Rush wanted to depart the CHL for the ECHL, but the League sued to keep them in the fold. It had also been rumored at that time that the Arizona Sundogs and a few others were also interested in joining the ECHL or another league, but following the League lawsuit the teams continued as they were. Not long after that, in June 2013, it was announced that the ownership of the CHL underwent a radical change when the League came “under the ownership and control of Central Partners, LLC, a collection of the franchise owners in the League.” This has paved the way to where we are today.

Earlier this week PHPA agent Darryl Wolski passed along some interesting news:

Yesterday Gerry Cantlon released his article in the Howlings with far more details about the CHL folding and a merger with other leaguesCantlon has been closely following the AHL western team movement and as you will see the CHL situation will play a part in that scenario.

“Two of those teams expected to join the AHL are the Denver Cutthroats and the Arizona Sundogs, while four teams will make their way to the ECHL. Those teams include the Allen, (TX) Americans, the Rapid City (RD) Rush, the Missouri (Independence, MO) Mavericks, and Quad City, (Illinois, a former AHL city) Mallards.”

“Wichita, (KA) Thunder, Brampton, (Ontario) Beast and Tulsa, (OK) Oilers will be free to pursue other minor leagues and junior hockey opportunities.  The team from St. Charles, (MO) Chill folded this summer.”

The CHL will play this season, their last season if these reports prove accurate, and if that is the case the parts and pieces would then begin to breakup among the ECHL, AHL and other minor leagues and perhaps even Junior leagues.

For the Denver Cutthroats and the Arizona Sundogs to become AHL teams they would of course have to own an AHL franchise and as I have stated in the past, if these Western NHL teams desire to move their AHL teams west, they will find a way. This is not by any means “new” news since it was being discussed by the Western NHL teams as far back as October 2011. In April additional news came out of Arizona that the Coyotes were working on moving their AHL club closer to home, preferably inside the state of Arizona, and Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona wrote a followup to this issue.

In June AHL President Dave Andrews went on record stating that the AHL’s western movement could start as early as the 2015-16 season. Eric Rodgers explores this topic in more detail in his article “Go West, Young AHL!” at Tend the Farm.

In the longterm I think we will see much stronger leagues in both the AHL and ECHL as a result of this shuffling. While some disagree, I believe the NHL teams’ oversight of their minor league teams will provide much more solid and beneficial organizations within the minors.

None of this will be easy on fans or even media and sportswriters who have spent years devoted to some of these teams which will ultimately relocate. My heart goes out to them, and Aeros fans, Abbotsford fans and their media know exactly how it feels. Sadly, there are never any guarantees in this business.

As a hockey fan in the heart of CHL territory I would feel a great sadness if these rumors are true and some of these wonderfully wild and woolly historic CHL teams play their last season. I greatly enjoyed my foray into the CHL in 2013 and the Arizona Sundogs will forever hold fond memories for me, however I would also look forward to their Phoenix-like rebirth in the AHL if that does indeed happen.