Heading into 2019, the SHL’s minor circuit, the Continental Hockey League, will field largely the same lineup as last year. With no expansion and no teams swapping affiliates, there is only one change, as the CHL disposed of a franchise that wound up in its hands last season.
In the closing weeks of last season, Muncie Squirrels owner Kenny Cheswell rocked the league by announcing that he was forfeiting his franchise, claiming that he was “tapped out” and losing a great deal of money on his team. The CHL operated the Squirrels for the remainder of the season, but was determined to find a buyer. Finding no one who was willing to keep the team in Muncie, they sold the franchise to William Franklin, the owner of a paper company based in Boise.
“The Mountain West is really warming up to hockey,” said Franklin. “You’ve seen what a big hit it is in Vegas, which proves that hockey can work in non-traditional markets. And Boise is a growing city, one that’s a lot bigger and more vibrant that most people realize. This team is our chance to show the rest of the country what we’re becoming.”
CHL Commissioner Denny McNerny noted that the Spuds were a good geographic fit with the other teams in the CHL’s Mountain region, the Utah Owls and the Colorado Springs Zoomies. “From a travel perspective, having three teams close to each other makes things easier, especially for our East Coast teams. And this is a great opportunity for some regional rivalries to form.”
The newly relocated Spuds will retain their affiliation with the Dakota Jackalopes. Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard indicated his pleasure with the team’s new location. “We’re at the edge of the High Plains, and we’ve always thought of ourselves as more of a Western than a Midwestern team,” Mindegaard said. “Even though Boise isn’t that much closer to us, it’s a city that feels a lot like ours in spirit. I think this will be a great fit for us.”
As part of the press conference, the Spuds introduced their new uniforms – which feature shades of brown highly reminiscent of Dakota’s popular fauxback look – as well as new coach Gilbert McCoyne. McCoyne is an Alberta native, and he declared that “Boise feels just like home to me.”
McNerny noted that he was proud of the league’s stability. “In a lot of minor leagues, you see teams moving like gypsies every year,” the commissioner said. “The CHL isn’t like that, and I think it’s a testament to the strong roots we’re building in our cities.”