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Hockey leagues in affiliation talks

IHL, CHL announcement expected to come next week

Signs are pointing to the IHL and the Central Hockey League joining forces, with an announcement coming next week.

“There have been conversations, and we’re working on things,” IHL commissioner Dennis Hextall said.

“We’re working on establishing our teams from the IHL (there). Hopefully, by next week, we’ll be in a position that there will be an announcement.”

CHL commissioner Duane Lewis affirmed there is mutual interest.

“There is obviously interest in the International Hockey League for the CHL,” he said. “We have had conversations with them, but I can’t comment beyond that, other than to say we do think it will work for them within our business model.”

An IHL source said that the new alignment will be more of an affiliation where, perhaps, there will be two or three divisions with little or no interleague play.

“Nothing’s been done yet or set in stone,” Komets president Michael Franke said, “and I don’t anticipate anything will occur until the middle of next week.”

The IHL, which was reincarnated in 2008, has been on shaky ground since losing Kalamazoo to the ECHL in 2009 and Muskegon to the junior-level United States Hockey League this year. It has six teams, with the financially strapped Flint Generals in need of new ownership.

Some of the IHL’s teams, including the Komets, had discussed joining either the CHL and ECHL, though dialogue with the latter appears dead.

“There should not be any conjecture at all with the ECHL,” league commissioner Brian McKenna said. “There is nothing happening on that front, and I can confirm that.”

The 20-team ECHL would have offered the Komets strong ties to the NHL, younger rosters and geographically relevant rivals, including Cincinnati, Toledo and Kalamazoo.

“We are moving forward with plans for our schedule for next year, and I’m not aware of what the IHL’s plans are,” McKenna said.

It appears as if the IHL is moving forward with the CHL, whose 13 teams are as far south as Hidalgo, Texas, and as far north as Rapid City, S.D. The CHL teams closest to Fort Wayne are in Independence, Mo., and Southaven, Miss., both 606 miles away.

A source said there could be expansion teams added to the CHL-IHL collective this summer.

The CHL is a subsidiary of Global Entertainment Corp, a publicly traded company involved in arena management, ticketing and food services. The teams are individually owned, however.

“We’re centrally located in the middle of the country and have the opportunity to expand on the Global Entertainment model,” Lewis said. “We want to be a strong league with quality teams and continue to expand within our geographic footprint. We think we bring a lot to the table. … We have a lot of infrastructure in place to assist franchises, and we think it would be a good opportunity for (owners) to look at.”

The CHL is unionized, however, and the Komets have not had to deal with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association since leaving the old IHL in 1999. While the IHL was slated to skate a 70-game schedule next season, the CHL plays a 64-game slate. The IHL’s salary cap is $13,000 a week, compared with $10,450 a week for the CHL.