If the sky seems bluer, birds seem chirpier, or your neighbor seems chattier today, thank the Chicago Cubs.
No, seriously, do.
After Wednesday night’s “almost blew it, but didn’t blow it” curse-ending, heart-stopping, stomach-churning drama, the Cubs snapped the longest title drought among the four major American sports, 108 years between championships.
The mark is not likely to be surpassed by any team, ever.
The ending of the Cubs title-less streak got me to thinking what the longest title droughts were in the ECHL. So, I did some research. I looked at each team and when the last time they won a championship was, regardless of league. If it was a team that had transferred ownership and were moved, I included that in the drought since the team is still in operation.
Here are six teams who are primed to see Kelly pay a visit to their city for a season.
5. Wichita Thunder
Championship drought: 21 years
The Thunder have been close in recent years but had very disappointing losses in the 2012 Central Hockey League (CHL) finals (getting dusted by Fort Wayne 4-1) and losing in heartbreak fashion to the Allen Americans in the 2013 CHL finals. After two lackluster seasons in the ECHL, it is the franchise’s hope that Malcolm Cameron can bring some sustained excellence to the franchise that has been lacking that through its history.
4. Toledo Walleye
Championship Drought: 22 years
The Walleye have not been to a league championship series since the 2005-06 season, when they were called the Storm. Derek Lalonde led the squad to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, when they lost to the South Carolina Stingrays in an epic triple-overtime game 7. The Walleye have a deep bench of former players who would come back and support the team if they returned to the Kelly Cup Finals.
3. Tulsa Oilers
Championship Drought: 23 years
The Oilers won their fourth championship as a franchise in 1993 as members of the CHL and haven’t played for one since losing to the Wichita Thunder in 1994 CHL Finals. Think about that…the Tulsa Oilers have not been past the second round of the playoffs in 22 years. General Manager Taylor Hall brought in head coach Jason Christie to break one or both of those streaks. So far this season, the Oilers have gotten off to their best start since 1964, but it remains to be seen if they are bonafide Kelly Cup contenders.
2. Wheeling Nailers
Championship Drought: 27 years
The Nailers franchise was one of the original ECHL franchises, winning the Kelly Cup in their first season as the Carolina Thunderbirds. Wheeling came up short last season in the Kelly Cup Finals, losing to the Allen Americans in six games. This season, head coach Jeff Christian has focused less on “bully hockey” (but it still exists) and more on an up-tempo offensive game, along with consistent goaltending. A championship in the Wheel would be really well received, especially given the litany of big names in hockey that have gone through that fine city.
And finally….a tie.
1. Greenville Swamp Rabbits / Utah Grizzlies
Championship Drought: 28 years
The Swamp Rabbits, formerly Road Warriors and before that, Johnstown Chiefs, have never won a league championship and have not played for one since the Chiefs’ inaugural season in 1989 when they lost to the Carolina Thunderbirds. Dean Stork was the last coach to lead the franchise to the Kelly Cup playoffs, with the team making it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014. The team has not appeared in the playoffs since then, and one would have to think this could be a make-or-break year for bench boss Brian Gratz in the upstate.
While the Grizzlies, in name, have won a championship (IHL Turner Cups 1995 and ’96,) the franchise which now owns the Grizzlies name has not. In fact, the franchise has never played for a championship, which is remarkable when you consider the volume of NHL players and solid minor pro coaches that have been through the franchise. So if and when the Grizz finally win their first Cup, it’s going to be a moment in which the current players share the experience with everyone who came before them: Trevor Lewis to Joel Rechlicz to T.J. Syner.
Who do you think will end the Kelly Cup drought first?