With all this fuss and excitement over the Everblades naming our new head coach the news of a new team entering the league during the 2011-2012 season flew under my radar. Now that I've had time to read up on it I'm pretty sure it's the dumbest move the ECHL has made in a while.
The ECHL has decided to grant membership to a team in Chicago. I know you're all thinking "don't they have a hockey team?" They do. In fact Chicago is home to three hockey teams already. Aside from the Blackhawks, they also have the Wolves of the AHL, and the Steel of the USHL. I've gone ahead and made this map of all the hockey teams in Chicago to make the stupidity all pretty.
View Chicago Hockey Teams in a larger map
I don't have to tell you how much I love hockey. I really don't think I can ever have too much, but even for me that's a lot of hockey. It's almost too much. I understand why the Chicago Wolves have been relatively successful, they offer an affordable alternative to seeing the Blackhawks (obviously the Steel are an even better deal). The problem is, how can one city support four teams? I really have my doubts that this can be done. Now, I understand the Hawks have managed to capture the attention of Chicago sports fans with the Stanley Cup win, but really, are all the people who just jumped on the bandwagon going to really care about a team in a developmental league? Why would you really care about players who might be a star someday when you can watch Patrick Kane and Johnathan Toews now? Why care when you can watch players that are one step from the NHL? Someone just getting into hockey (or someone who has just jumped on the bandwagon) doesn't want to see the Donati twins. They want to see the Sedins.
Sadly, the ECHL is making a huge mistake, one they're going to regret. There are plenty of cities that could better support an ECHL franchise. Heck, the brand new, shiny arena in Orlando would do well with hockey tenant. Baltimore is another option that tends to come up anytime I get into a conversation about the league expanding. It may also be a good idea for the ECHL to look into expanding in the West more. The conferences are very lopsided (12 vs. 8). It's just such a waste to grant this franchise to a city that already has three professional hockey teams. There are so many better cities out there, that can fully support a team.
I guess there is a bright side in all of this. The team is running a name your team contest. Chicago Redundancy anyone?