The CHL might seem on shaky ground – Odessa is defecting, and several others might do the same – but the Komets insist they’re staying.
We are committed to the league for next season, Komets president Michael Franke said Monday.
There have been a lot of rumors out there (about teams leaving). I really can’t speak specifically to anything. One of the advantages to being in a much larger league, as we all know from years gone by, is there’s usually some attrition (you can survive). I’m assuming there will be some attrition in the CHL this offseason. We’ll deal with that as it becomes official.
Tumultuous offseasons are nothing new for the Komets. Along with five other ex-UHL teams, they formed the IHL in 2007. They lost their biggest geographic rival, Kalamazoo, to the ECHL in 2009, and that led to the IHL’s demise last summer. The Komets were among the final eight of the CHL’s 18 teams before losing to Rapid City in the Turner Conference semifinals.
When we came together last year (with Fort Wayne), we knew it would be something good for both sides, CHL commissioner Duane Lewis said. It’s nice when teams are in agreement with staying in the league and so forth. There are a lot of (rumors) going around that have taken off on their own tangents and we’re trying to corral that. I appreciate Fort Wayne making a (commitment) like that.
If there’s good news for the Komets, it’s that most of the uncertainty surrounds teams in the CHL’s southern region. Odessa (Texas) is heading to the junior-level North American Hockey League, while others are allegedly looking at junior hockey and the Southern Professional Hockey League. But one of the CHL’s flagship teams, the Colorado Eagles, is reportedly moving to the ECHL. And the future of Bloomington (Ill.), one of Fort Wayne’s closest rivals, is suspect because it has yet to reach a lease agreement with U.S. Cellular Coliseum and was recently served with an IRS tax lien.
We’re very hopeful that Bloomington is able to come back, Franke said. We think it’s a solid market. They had a very good team last season, the coach of the year in Jason Christie. Selfishly, from the geography of it, we want them. But the building is great and we think the market should be strong.
Everybody is working to make it a CHL team for a long time to come, he said. My confidence level is there to make sure a solution is come to.
Even in the worst-case scenario – about six teams leaving the CHL – Franke said the Komets won’t join the ECHL. Franke said he hasn’t spoken to ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna in roughly a year.
Any losses in any league will have a certain effect on anybody, Franke said. It puts scheduling pressure on everyone else, if it’s in the south, west or whatever. ... It’ll increase travel for all teams. But in minor-league hockey, travel is part of the game.
In a perfect world, everything would fall under one title, where all the leagues would be together. We’ve talked about that kind of stuff for years. Eventually I think it will happen and there will be one Double-A league, one Single-A league, one Triple-A league and the NHL, with everybody working together.
Lewis said the CHL and the ECHL are in regular communication about the future of hockey.