Michael Franke saw this coming at least two years ago, which does not so much make him prescient as it makes him an alert reader of landscapes. One night in the Memorial Coliseum pressbox, if memory serves, he said eventually there would be one Triple A hockey league, one Double A hockey league and one Single A hockey league, if for no other reason than the economy and the market would bear no more.
Consider it done now, with the announcement that seven teams from the collapsing Central Hockey League would be joining the ECHL, just as the Komets did two years ago.
In retrospect that was probably the beginning of the road to this day, because the CHL was losing not only its defending champion but one of the most venerable and successful franchises in minor league hockey. In truth, though, this really began to happen with the collapse of the old IHL back at the turn of this millennium, because that started the reshuffling of dominos that culminated in what happened today.
That reshuffling was as inevitable as it was inexorable, from a business sense and in every other way. A minor-league system that has never had the order baseball's does now at least has an approximation; there are now virtually an equal number of teams in the NHL (30 teams), AHL (30)and ECHL (28). That will facilitate an eventual one-to-one pairing of NHL teams to affiliates, same as in baseball.
Or so that's what everyone seems to think will eventually happen.
“In the ECHL now, we’ve got 28 teams in 20 states and one Canadian province and a partridge in a pear tree,” Komets forward Mike Embach said. “This will make more sense, and it will be 30 NHL teams, 30 (AHL teams) and 30 (ECHL teams) eventually. One affiliate per team in each league, eventually, and in a close proximity, and I think they’ll try and do that in the next few years.”
It can't come too soon.