As the FHL gears up for its hotly anticipated Commissioner’s Cup Final between the Carolina Thunderbirds and Elmira Enforcers, things are heating up off the ice for the 2019-20 season.
We’ve previously touched on how it is likely that Danbury is coming back to the league, and yesterday’s story on the SPHL potentially not expanding it appears as if the FHL is in the driver’s seat for the Columbus, Georgia market.
This week Bus League Hockey learned from multiple sources that the FHL is not stopping there, and has plans to add a ninth team for next season, and also has plans to split the league into two divisions regardless of if the ninth team is added.
This is where things get tricky, as the league is aiming to put the ninth market on the eastern shore, reportedly having interest in Harrington, Delaware, as well as Salisbury, MD and the Wicomico Civic Center.
We’ve touched on Salisbury before, noting last off-season that it was a market that both the FHL and SPHL were interested in, and with over 5000 seats in the arena, roughly 35,000 people in the town, as well as over nearly 375,000 people in the metro area, it makes sense that it was sought after, and continues to be a place where a league would want to put a team.
The bigger issue with the WCC, is that there is no permanent ice in the arena, and none of the pictures on its Google Image Search show events where there was ice on the main floor. They have hosted events like Disney On Ice in the past, but that can be accommodated for a weekend with portable ice makers, which are not ideal for a full season of professional hockey.
Harrington on the other hand is…nowhere near the size of the Salisbury area. Harrington DOES however have a permanent ice arena with four locker rooms with showers, heated grandstands, and a pro shop, all located on the grounds of the Delaware State Fair. But the problem with the ice arena at the moment is that is only has 350 permanent seats, but could potentially be expanded.
BLH has reached out to officials at the arena on Monday for comment or more information on the matter, and as of posting had not received a response.
The other issue and thing that raised eyebrows when we were told the Harrington spot: the town itself is tiny, as in just under 3,700 people within the actual city limits. But the county the town is located in has roughly 177,000 people in it, and since Delaware isn’t big, that’s 177,000 people all roughly within a half hour of the rink, so there is the potential population needed to draw enough fans to make a team last.
The potential addition of a ninth team would also have an effect on the league’s layout for next season, as the FHL is reportedly looking to move to a divisional format as a way to build rivalries.
Should the eastern shore team be added, the divisions would be as follows:
East: Elmira, Watertown, Danbury, MD/DE Team
West: Carolina, Columbus, Mentor, Danville, Port Huron.
But if the eastern shore team isn’t added for whatever reason, the league still plans to use divisions, with four teams in each, with the most likely scenario being that Mentor would slide over into the East Division, while the West would be the same as above, minus the Ice Breakers.
More information on expansion and the divisional alignment is expected to be announced after the league meetings following the conclusion of the current season.
So what does this all mean? It appears that the massive FHL southern expansion that had some worried isn’t quite on the way yet, even with the possibility of adding Columbus looking more likely. But it also means that no teams that took the ice this season have no plans of folding or leaving during this off-season, and that the league could be playing in 2019-20 with its most teams ever.
We’ll keep you updated on this as we hear more updates.