The higher ups of the Federal Hockey League and its respective teams are currently at the league meetings, getting things set for next year, including the expansion draft (which was held last night), and a schedule.
There have been absolutely no details on the expansion draft last night, which we only knew was happening because the Port Huron Prowlers posted a picture on their Facebook page, which we then shared on our Facebook page.
The expansion draft raised a LOT of questions because it seemingly popped up out of nowhere, and was held before potentially two expansion teams were officially announced, Columbus and Delaware.
We know Danbury was there, after they officially announced the team last week, and it’s likely that Columbus was there after the FHL acquired the lease to the Columbus Civic Center last month, which left us wondering if the rumored third team in Delaware was there.
This morning, a couple different sources told Bus League Hockey that the yet-to-be-named Delaware team is IN for the 2019-2020 season, which will give the league nine teams this year, tying for the most in league history with 2011-12. That season, nine teams were slated to play, but saw the Niagara Falls Nationals fold before the season started, and then saw the Vermont Wild suspend operations after a handful of games, causing the league to finish the season with seven official teams and one travel team.
Also of note, as of publishing and knowing that the expansion draft was last night, there have been ZERO details about what went down at the draft, including how many players were taken or what teams they were picked by. We will update you with a separate post on expansion draft results if we hear any news.
We noted it before in this piece, but the addition of the Delaware team means the league will likely split into two divisions, as follows:
East: Elmira, Watertown, Danbury, Delware.
West: Carolina, Columbus, Mentor, Danville, Port Huron.
As we previously reported, the team is likely (but not finalized) to be based out of Harrington and an arena on the State Fair Grounds, but that creates problems that we haven’t been able to get answers on yet.
Harrington DOES 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 to just over 1200 seats, according to our sources.
BLH had previously reached out to officials at the arena for comment or more information on the matter, but did not receive 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 other option for the team that’s reportedly still on the table but not as likely, is Salisbury, Maryland, near the Maryland/Delaware border.
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.
But the issue with the WCC remains that 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.
But regardless, the big news is that the Delaware team is IN for this coming season, giving the FHL nine teams.
Other news that we have been told by sources close to the league is that the FHL will slightly dial back the 2019-20 schedule due to the addition of three teams and more travel to those other teams.
The league will reportedly have each team playing 56 games, down from 58 this past season, and as of now teams are scheduled to play an even 28 home and away games, but our sources noted that could change before things are finalized as teams will often times attempt to “buy” more home games for their team. For instance, in the Columbus announcement, the arena said the team will have 30 home games this coming season, which would mean they are a likely candidate to add a couple more home dates.
The drop from 58 to 56 games essentially eliminates a week (and possibly more if more 3 in 3 weekends are played) from the schedule, meaning at least one less week of travel for each team, and could also possibly hint at a new playoff format where more than four teams qualify, thus the need for a little more time for the playoffs.
One final note, our sources close to the expansion talks have told us that all announcements the new teams will come from the teams themselves, with both the Delaware and Columbus teams expected to be announced before the end of the month.
If the teams are able to do that, it puts them nearly a full two months ahead of last season’s expansion announcements, where Elmira wasn’t announced until around July 10, and then Mentor later that summer in August. The early announcements would be a huge boost to those teams, giving them more time to market the team, bring on sponsors, and sell tickets.
So get ready, because the next three weeks or so is going to get crazy in the FHL.