The commissioner of the ECHL says that Abbotsford is “not on our radar screen.”
Brian McKenna spoke with The News late last week, responding to rumblings that the 22-team minor pro hockey circuit was among the leagues eyeing Abbotsford as the American Hockey League’s Heat prepare to move.
“We were aware that the American League team was leaving town,” McKenna acknowledged. “We have not, now or in the past, been approached by any potential ownership group (from Abbotsford). It’s not a market that has had discussion with our executive committee or our board at this point.
“I’m not aware of any team in our league or any current owner in our league that’s had any discussion, either. Even if that were the case, it would have to be brought to our board for approval.
“At this point as well, our roster of teams is set for the ’14-’15 season. Anything we would do in any market at this point would be for the ’15-’16 season.”
McKenna explained that while the ECHL isn’t adverse to expansion, they take a “very cautious approach.” Additionally, they prefer to give a new franchise a year to prepare for the launch, and generally vote to approve expansion at their June annual meeting of their September preseason meeting for the following fall.
“If it’s a good market with very solid ownership, a business plan we think can succeed for the longer team and a reasonable lease, we’ll take a look at it,” he said. “If all of those elements aren’t in place, then we’re happy to take a pass on it if we don’t that it’s either going to be in the best long-term interests of the city or the ECHL. We’re not in the mode of expansion for the sake of expansion.”
The ECHL used to be known as the East Coast Hockey League, but simply goes by the acronym now as its footprint has expanded westward. It’s the third tier of pro hockey in North America, below the NHL and the AHL.
Abbotsford was a geographic outpost in the AHL, whereas the ECHL has eight teams in the Western U.S. – three in California, and one each in Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Nevada.
But the league hasn’t had a team in Canada since 2011, when the Victoria Salmon Kings folded to make way for the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals (formerly the Chilliwack Bruins).