The table has been set for hockey next season, and the Quad City Mallards officially have a place at the Central Hockey League table with their International Hockey League mates, but the juiciest nuggets of information have yet to be served.|
Here are the facts: The IHL and CHL have entered into a letter of intent to combine for the 2010-11 season. They're calling it a "super league," and branding it as "The Center of Hockey." They will play under the CHL moniker and under NHL rules, but International Hockey League officials say the IHL will maintain "various aspects" of its identity, though neither league has divulged yet exactly how that will be accomplished.
"It's basically going to be an affiliation," said CHL commissioner Duane Lewis. "There will be a bit of separation in terms of there are still two operations. But it's going to be close in many, many regards."
That, and more, will be explained in further detail after each league has had the chance to gather for its summer meetings. The CHL meets in Gilbert, Ariz. Thursday through Saturday and the IHL meets June 21-23.
The meetings will also bring to light exactly which teams will make up the CHL. As it reads, the IHL and its six remaining members will join the CHL and its 13 existing members. However, on both sides there are financially strapped teams with unclear futures, and potential expansion teams, which could lead the league to suit up more or fewer than the 19 teams currently in operation.
At the same time, divisional alignment and operating guidelines will be discussed. The CHL will negotiate its collective bargaining agreement with the Professional Hockey Players Association that represents its players. IHL players have no union representation.
To top it off, the CHL is publicly owned by Global Entertainment Corporation and its teams are owned privately. The IHL is not owned publicly, which leaves more legalese to pore over.
There was also no word on how many games each team will play.
Tuesday's official announcement was the culmination of months of talks between the IHL and CHL that Lewis said were "pretty positive all around." Both he and IHL commissioner Dennis Hextall pointed toward economics as a key factor in the leagues joining forces.
"We've lost Muskegon," Hextall said of the Lumberjacks' departure to the junior United State Hockey League. "We've struggled a little with Flint. We're having trouble, largely because of the economy, with our Michigan teams (Muskegon, Flint and Port Huron). When this opportunity was available, and we'd looked around at different options, this appeared to be the best fit for us."
Lewis said the economy has also been tough on several CHL markets, but sees sunny skies ahead.
"This is new life to many of these teams," Lewis said.
And new life to idea sharing. He said the leagues have similar structures -- another key factor leading to the agreement -- and with open lines of communication, the leagues can help each other.
Travel costs have been a hot topic of discussion by fans watching from afar. While centrally located from coast to coast, the CHL primarily houses teams in the southern region and the IHL in the north. Lewis did not reveal how the schedule will be structured. He did suggest, however, that the CHL already has experience with traveling a great distance to play. There is potential for clustered road trips.
"I'm sure in some instances there will be some increases in travel expenses for some teams," Lewis said. "But if you look at it, if you do go into one certain area, you're going to travel around and play lots of games instead of making lots of `one-out' trips. It depends on how the schedule unfolds. We're working very closely with the teams on all schedules. Hopefully we can limit travel expenses."
While much has yet to be determined, one thing can be said with certainty: There will be hockey in the Quad-Cities in 2010-11.
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