So now the CHL is beginning to shudder on its foundations.
Odessa is bailing, reportedly, for junior hockey. Colorado, one of the league's linchpin franchises, is reporteldy flirting with the ECHL. Bloomington hasn't wangled a building lease yet. Bossier-Shreveport could be out the door. Quad City is rumored to be folding.
And what is the Fort Wayne Komets' official position on all this?
They're stickin'. And you know what?
It's the smart play right now.
It's smart because team president Michael Franke sees the future, and I think he sees it clearly. Franke has been saying for some time that eventually there'll be one Double-A league and one Triple-A league in minor-league hockey, and I think he's dead on. So what's to be gained, even short term, by jumping leagues again?
Nothing I can see. You can talk all you want about how moving to the ECHL would revive rivalries with Kalamazoo and Toledo, but is the ECHL really on any more solid footing than the CHL right now? Maybe for a year or so, but the same cycle you're seeing in the CHL is going to start happening there, too, and sooner rather than later. So what do you gain, long term?
One thing we can say for sure: The IHL is dead forever. In this climate, no one in his right mind is going to try to resurrect another Double-A league. As what's happening in the CHL amply demonstrates, that would be sheer folly. There's no market for another Double-A hockey league. There's barely a market for both the CHL and ECHL.
So the Komets are right to sit tight. Somehow I think, down the road, they'll be playing Kzoo and Toledo again eventually, in whatever emerges from the contracting Double-A market.