E-Mail Subscriptions to the Blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A shrinking UHL

The Championship season for hockey is drawing to a close. First, congratulations to the Alaska Aces, winner of the Kelly Cup in a 4-1 series victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators. It is hard to argue with sold-out crowds and an outstanding series victory.

The series in Toledo, which was the outstanding roadtrip of the season, allowed me to see several future Wolves on the ice. I’m primed for next season. Congratulations too, then to the Gladiators, who reached the finals for the first time.

Other notes, the UHL Colonial Cup goes to a local team: the Kalamazoo K-Wings in a 4-1 series victory over the Danbury Trashers. Sadly the UHL is undergoing a shattering number of teams leaving the league.

This is all being prettied up by the UHL as a retrenching of the league into the Midwest. The Richmond River Dogs moving to Hoffman Estates to become the Chicago Hounds; the Fraser City, Mich. Motor City Mechanics closing for a year, the (Glen Falls, NY) Adirondack Frostbite in danger of folding, which in turn threatens the second-place Danbury, Conn. Trashers and the Elmira, NY Jackals, as the travel budgets could not take trips to the next closest teams, about 400 miles west.

The St. Charles, Missouri River Otters are shopping for “investors” or will also pull out of the next season. The Moline, Ill. Quad City Mallards underwent a bruising front office battle that is discussed HERE. Plus, the website ArenaDigest.com noted that the Rockford Ice Hogs are unprofitable. The only bright spots are the new Bloomington, Ill. Prairie Thunder, the outstanding attendance at Fort Wayne, Ind. Komets games and the new Sears Center built for the Chicago Hounds.

While a retrench of the team makes sense, there is a nice tight geographic group in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, it is not encouraging that so many UHL teams have such a short life.

Other notes: The NBA Cleveland Cavs purchased the rights to the AHL Utah Grizzlies and will move the franchise, pending approval, to Cleveland. After all the Cleveland fans went through, it is great that a local group is taking control. AHL hockey is back in Cleveland in the 2007-8 season.

The World Cup of Hockey finished several weeks ago. It goes almost unnoticed in North America, but is the BIG hockey tournament in the rest of civilization. The top teams: GOLD Sweden, SILVER Czech Republic, BRONZE Finland. Here are the rest of the standings: 4th Canada, 5th Russia, 6th Belarus and
7th United States. In total 16 teams were ranked. And the North American game continues to battle for the dominance it once had.

Another key championship is the juniors Memorial Cup, held each year on the Queen’s Birthday. This year saw Moncton, New Brunswick, the home team, battle in the final with the Quebec Remparts. Congratulations to the Remparts for winning. Congratulations too to Moncton. It’s a long way to the Atlantic, but I heard they threw a heck of a party in Moncton.

A key player may come out of the Memorial Cup: Alexander Radulov was named CHL Player of the year. He may join Milwaukee in the Calder Cup Final, filling in one of the lines! There's a good discussion of him HERE.

Before we take a side trip to Milwaukee, however, there is a report on the Wolfkeeper site, citing the Hockey News, that Harry Dumas is not being given a contract for the next season. We’ll miss Harry and his immaturity… No, we actually won’t. See ya’ later Harry. I’m sure you’ll get references from the teams. Harry was written about HERE.

Radulov will be the last player to join the Calder Cup race. The Portland Pirates gave the Hershey Bears a scare when they brought three NHL players from the completed Anaheim Mighty Ducks season to Hershey, Penn. for the game seven conclusion of the Eastern Conference. Center Ryan Getzlaf, left wing Dustin Penner and right wing Corey Perry joined for eight points in the playoffs. A good effort, but not enough to upset the Hershey Bears win.

So, it comes down to the Bears versus the Admirals. The Ads of course have been amazing: nine games in a row, just slaying their opponents. As I said in the previous post, they have surprised me. But here is a wonderful note about the Bears run: the first opponent was the Norfolk Admirals. How many teams have met teams with the same name twice in a league championship? What happened? I wish Bob Howard was around to tell us!

Second, opponent, Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins and the third opponent was the Portland Pirates. How many teams have met this many nautically themed teams? There are only four other teams like this in the AHL, the Peoria Rivermen, the Lowell Lock Monsters, the Albany River Rats and the Cleveland Barons (associated with the San Jose Sharks and they use a shark in their logo.).

I’m giving my nod to the Hershey Bears in six. Not only have they done well for me in the post-season pickem’s, I sense they want it more and have had a harder schedule to the top. But the Ads have surprised me and surprised me again, and then, again… We go to the game tonight at the Bradley Center. Go Bears.

No comments: