Change is coming to the SHL for 2018, as the Boston Badgers and Kansas City Smoke will be joining the fold. Similarly, change is coming to the SHL’s minor league, the Continental Hockey League. The CHL will also be adding two teams to match the SHL’s expansion; in addition, several teams will be swapping affiliates, and one team – the Albuquerque Screaming Eagles – will be relocating.
The Screaming Eagles lasted only one season in New Mexico, finishing fourth in the West with a 24-34-2 record that led to coach Butch Slazenger‘s firing. The team drew poorly, finishing last in the league with an average attendance under 3,000 per game. Arguably the most memorable features of the team was their garish uniforms, featuring gigantic stars on the sleeves and flames on the breezers.
“It’s going to be a lot easier on the eyes this year with the Eagles gone,” quipped Utah Owls coach Wiley Kiyotie.
The Eagles franchise was purchased by shipping magnate Rick Gilborn, who will relocate the team to his hometown of Colorado Springs. In addition to a new home, the franchise will have a new nickname: the Zoomies. Gilborn, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, said that the name is a slang term applied to cadets at the Academy. “Speed, valor, skill,” said Gilborn. “Makes for a great cadet, and makes for a great hockey player.”
To go along with their new city and name, the Zoomies will have a new parent club. The Screaming Eagles were affiliated with the SHL champion Hershey Bliss, The Bliss wanted an affiliate closer to home, so they chose to partner with the Milwaukee Hogs, one of the CHL’s expansion clubs. Colorado Springs will instead link up with the Seattle Sailors. Seattle was in the market for a new minor-league club after their previous affiliate, the Omaha Ashcats, decided to link up with the Smoke.
“We couldn’t be happier to be in Colorado Springs,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay. “It’s closer to us, so I should be able to get out and see our prospects in person more often. And it should be a strong market with a great bunch of fans. I can’t wait for the new season!”
Over in the CHL’s Eastern Division, the picture is less complicated, as no teams will be moving or changing affiliates. The division’s expansion team, the Hartford Harpoons, will be affiliated with (and partially owned by) the Badgers.
“This is a tremendous opportunity,” said veteran coach Mel Lonigan, who was hired as the Harpoons’ first bench boss. “Hartford’s a great hockey town – hell, the Whalers never should have left – and we’re getting in on the ground floor with a new team. I see no reason why we can’t compete right out of the box. We’re going to bring some exciting, competitive hockey here to Whale Country.”
SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell is excited by the growth and change in the CHL. “There’s been a little reorganization between seasons, but in a good way,” said Commissioner Mitchell. “By adding two great expansion teams in Hartford and Milwaukee and relocating to Colorado Springs, our minor league is stronger then it’s ever been, just as the SHL is stronger than it’s ever been. 2018 is going to be our best year yet.”