Friday, January 25, 2013

Brampton to the CHL...No, the OTHER CHL

Image via Central Hockey League

Word on Wednesday was that the Central Hockey League had reached an agreement with owners in Brampton, Ontario to bring a CHL team to the Brampton area. Brampton had recently lost their Major Junior team to North Bay, Ontario for next season; but a group stepped up and will have another league to add to the Greater Toronto Area.

This should set off red flags all around, however.

The Central League is one that actually had some geographic setting when it started, playing in the middle of the US, starting in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mississippi. While they did branch out to other states bordering the area (New Mexico, Arizona, Georgia), they always went really far east in North Carolina, Tennessee, and even going so far as Youngstown, Ohio for a crazy three season road trip for some teams and for the old team itself.

While they have taken over most of the midwest market by absorbing the old United Hockey League territories in Illinois and Indiana, the travel doesn't seem to be too much of some teams financially, but Brampton could be the next Youngstown of the league. The closest team to the new Brampton team would be the Bloomington Blaze, who are a 10-hour trek away according to Stadium Journey. This would also mean a lot of travel for not only the Brampton team, but also the teams they have to play who have to find a way to deal with the travel up there and coming with the finances to make those trips work and still have enough to operate during the rest of the season.

The idea of actually have a wider brand reach for the Central League is smart, but the it's a matter of whether or not fans will turn out for low-AA hockey or not that will make the Brampton team successful, which is another issue on top of travel for the team. Is getting the exposure to the Canadian side of things worth alienating or hurting the league's other teams?? Or is this something the CHL has though of and talked about with their member teams in order to figure out whether or not it was a viable option or not.

Of course, the fact of the matter is the former of that last statement is probably more accurate. If a new expansion team is going to bring in some money in fees and spread it out across the league-- odds are people would be agreeing with it even if they personally don't like it. It'd help the health of the league for the short-term, but the long-term viability could be dicey at best, especially for a team like the Rapid City (SD) Rush.

The upside is that the further markets-- Denver and Arizona-- are near some international airports, so it's not like they couldn't a flight-- but at the same time, that would be much more costly for them. Whether or not the addition of Brampton and St. Charles, Missouri will break up the CHL into two six-team conferences and break-up travel for the Western teams, but it could be a brief concern for the people in charge.

Canada is hockey crazy for the most part, but whether or not they'll be accepting of a lower minor league over a junior team or higher minor league remains to be seen. It's good to see that the CHL is trying to expand themselves and leave their mark on the hockey landscape, but they already had one misstep in going too far east with teams in the past-- who knows if they can afford to have another.

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