Hockey is back!!! The List has been updated to reflect changes and there are not many to speak of in the Arena world. Of course, the biggest change is at the Pro level with the Pittsburgh Penguins moving into the Consol Energy Center, but I’ve gone over that before. In the minor leagues, probably the biggest switching around came in the AHL, but again no real building changes. Lowell is gone as that franchise shifted to Charlotte, but they’ll be playing in the Bobcats’ NBA arena. The affiliation went to Carolina (makes sense), with the Devils taking Albany back. This is another reason I don’t like the Devils, as they have to stick their “brand” on everything. After nearly 15 years as the River Rats, Albany now is known as the Devils. Jersey did the same thing to Trenton in the ECHL a few years ago as they went from Thunder to Devils. I understand the whole organizational mentality, but don’t take that identity away from each city, though Albany never really seems to support their AHL facility well, as they play in an atmosphere-less, bland building. As much as I rail on Rochester for not being affiliated with Buffalo, I’m proud on how much they market and keep that Amerks name.
Anyway, luckily for us, Tsongas Arena in Lowell will still be in use as the UMass-Lowell D1 Hockey team will continue play there. The other good news of the AHL is they now have a balanced 30 teams, with Oklahoma City joining and continuing play in the Cox Convention Center (where they’re CHL franchise played). Glad to see OKC in the league as they have been a great hockey market and support their teams really well.
At the AA level, the biggest change is the Johnstown Chiefs moving South to Greenville, SC as the support for the Chiefs was dwindling and they simply weren’t able to make money. The Bi-Lo Center brings back hockey for the umpteenth time, while the historic Cambria County War Memorial will see several dark nights this winter. Remember, this is the building where much of the movie “Slap Shot” was filmed. Luckily, the Wheeling Nailers are actually going to play several games in Johnstown this year, so at least some hockey will be played there.
Two leagues merged in the offseason with the IHL (formerly the UHL) being absorbed by the CHL, where most of the IHL’s former teams will play. The only two buildings that left and returned from The List came from the Deep South. Let’s welcome James Brown Arena in Augusta back as they now have a primarily tenant again with the expansion Augusta Riverhawks in the SPHL. In the same league, the team in Lafayette, LA decided to play their games in the CajunDome instead of Blackham Coliseum. Both of these buildings are on the campus of Louisiana-Lafayette.
With the start of hockey, I’ll be heading to a few games this weekend as my brother will be coming down to Jersey for a hockey doubleheader. We’ll start with my first visit to the Prudential Center in Newark to root on the Sabres against New Jersey. Then the next night, it’s off to one of the best places for hockey: MSG as the Rangers play the Devils. Should be fun!