While there are no arena updates in the NHL this year, we cringe at the move next year that the Islanders make to the Barclays Center. I’ve written before how the Coliseum may be a dump, but my goodness is it deafening in there come playoff time. Moving to the minor leagues, there are some significant changes, starting with the AHL. Houston moves to Iowa and though it may be the Gulf Coast of Texas, the Aeros franchise was around for quite awhile and a small, but passionate bunch of fans had their hearts broken thanks to the jerks at Toyota Center/Houston Rockets stubbornly not renewing their lease, thus trading a 20 year hockey team for more concert dates and money. Meanwhile, this is the second go-round for the AHL in Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Center after a failed first attempt. Up in New York, welcome back Utica! Robert Esche led the charge to take on a relocating Peoria franchise (where Bradley basketball is really the main draw at Carver Arena). Amazing that in a league trending to big and new arenas, they will be back in Utica Memorial Auditorium and take it back to an era when teams like Cape Breton and Fredericton played there. Awesome and welcome back. In Portland, the Cumberland County Civic Center is undergoing renovations and is scheduled to re-open in January. One problem. The Portland Pirates won’t be there this season as the two are locked in a bitter dispute between lease negotiations. The Pirates instead will play about 45 minutes away in Lewiston, at the smaller Androscoggin Bank Colisee. Rather unusual circumstance to see and that must be infuriating Pirate fans that the two are acting like the US Government.
A level down in the ECHL, the Trenton Titans have folded as the attendance, fan support and income just wasn’t there. Too bad as the franchise used to do well. As a result, the Sun National Bank Center (where I have visited) is off The List as there are no sports teams playing there. A real shame as it is a decent mid-sized arena. In the SPHL, a couple of Illinois teams arrive in the southern league, making for an odd geographical trip. Peoria drops from the AHL, while Bloomington left the CHL. Also, the Augusta and Fort Worth franchises folded. The one in Augusta is noteworthy because the Ice System failed at James Brown Arena and there is some disagreement on the fix. No Ice, No Hockey. Therefore, the King of Soul’s arena is gone.
College Hockey has been completely restructured conference-wise (like everything else) thanks to the formation of the Big Ten. This set off a chain of events as CCHA folded, while the NCHC formed and the team swapping is too numerous and ridiculous to list. Back to the Big Ten, Penn State’s relatively new team is ready to debut in Terry Pegula’s hockey arena, which opened October 11th.
In the popular Canadian Major Junior leagues, the biggest change is in the OHL, where Brampton moved to North Bay. This is the city’s second stint as the Gateway to The North, had a team from 1982 – 2002. It is a shame however, that North Bay they kept Brampton’s nickname (Battalion) instead of reverting back to their Centennials. Plus their jerseys are hideous. After some lower-level hockey during the in-between-OHL years, North Bay Memorial Gardens received minor renovations in the offseason on their back to major junior. Back in Brampton, an NBL Canada team will play at the Powerade Centre. Two other teams saw changes in their building, with the big one coming in Erie, where the $46 million renovation basically transformed the home arena of the Otters. In Ottawa, it’s the renovation of Frank Clair Stadium for the CFL that has the 67s playing sharing big league arena in Kanata with the Senators. The 67s will move back into the Ottawa Civic Centre next season. Staying in the OHL, Kingston gets shamed for now having two sponsors on their arena name, which may be a first. Their arena is now the Rogers K-Rock Centre. Gross name. The only other junior change up in Canada is the re-naming of the PEI franchise in the Q. They are now known as the Charlottetown Islanders (love that change in name) and play in the newly-sponsored Eastlink Centre.
Down in the USHL, the major junior league of the US, just one change and it comes in Indianapolis. With historic Pepsi Coliseum out of commission for another year due to renovations, the Ice will split games at Bankers Life Fieldhourse and Pan-Am Pavilion. I can’t seem to find seating capacity info from the Pavilion anywhere, so I had to glance at the seating chart and it looks like it may not even hold 1,000, which is not enough for The List. In the NAHL, there were four teams that folded and three new teams, but none of these changes impacted The List.