Phone call after phone call. Text after text. Twitter and Facebook losing their minds. Media members from both sides bickering back and forth. Denial from league officials on both sides. False reports from “sources.” Panic. Scrambling. Fear. Anxiety. Hope. Jubilation.
Does that ring any bells? It has been one year and a day since the ECHL absorbed the seven remaining teams from the now defunct Central Hockey League. I know that we’ve all gone through a full season since then, but it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. For so many years prior, players, fans, and front offices all clamored at the idea of a unified AA hockey league. That was the ultimate goal.
When the two sides finally hammered out this consolidation (remember, this was not a merger), everyone was able to finally breathe a huge sigh of relief, at least in the case of the old CHL teams and their respective fan bases. I can’t really speak to the reactions of the ECHL fans, but I know that the “silly season” was getting incredibly tiresome. Every summer, fans would wonder what teams would be closing up shop, and if there were any new teams to fill their shoes. Each summer resulted in less and less teams filling out the CHL roster, resulting in more and more sleepless nights for the CHL faithful, fearing the day that their beloved team would no longer step foot on the hallowed ice in their favorite barn. All of their friends, their brethren, that they’ve met over the years would go their separate ways, as the one thing that unified all those from so many different walks of life, could possibly disappear faster than Keyser Soze.
That day finally came on October 7th, 2014. What a whirlwind it has been ever since. Teams had to rebuild their rosters from scratch, and do it in less than a week before training camps opened. Fan favorites would be sent packing due to differing veteran rules, many of those riding off into the sunset. Overnight, the lives of so many people were turned upside down. While it definitely affected some negatively, in the grand scheme of things, this was a day to be celebrated. This shiny, new unified league was something that minor league hockey needed. NHL teams could now effectively strategize their organization from top to bottom, and AA teams could now reap the benefits of a true NHL/AHL affiliation, just ask the Kelly Cup Champion Allen Americans. The landscape of professional hockey in North America was jarred and rattled, but when the dust settled, a new day dawned, one that everyone could be excited about.
This historic day marked a significant step in regards to the future of professional hockey. There was some collateral damage along the way, sure. That will happen with any event of importance. At the end of the day though, the stability, prestige, viability, and credibility outweighs all. October 7th, 2014 is a day that will forever hold a place in the hockey history books.
Here’s a few more things to help take a walk down memory lane:
You can hear the Minor League Hockey Report podcast from that day, here: