Central Hockey League Shrinks During Summer

The Central Hockey League (CHL) experienced turbulent times as it contracted from the recently expanded 10 teams to seven teams this off-season. On May 2, it was announced by the CHL that the St Charles Chill, who played in St Charles, MO for one season, had ceased operations effective immediately. This was not an unexpected development, as the Chill had done poorly in their debut season with a record of 11-49-6 and a total of 28 points for the season. May 2 was also the day of Game One of the Ray Miron Cup Finals, where the Allen Americans beat the Denver Cutthroats in five games.

At the beginning of August, rumors began to spread on twitter that the CHL and East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) were going to merge for the 2014-2015 season. This was due to an attempt to realign the American Hockey League (AHL) so that the teams were closer to their parent teams. The AHL serves as the development league for the National Hockey League (NHL), with a heavy concentration of teams along the east coast—even though the NHL spans the entire width of North America. The realignment of minor league hockey would combine the ECHL and CHL to create 30 double-A teams to go with the 30 triple-A teams and 30 professional teams. The merger did not occur for the 2014-2015 season, as the ECHL’s schedule had been released in July.

On Aug. 19, rumors began to circulate on a Facebook CHL fan page that the following day two teams would be announcing their exit from the CHL. These teams were to be replaced by AHL teams for the 2015-2016 season. While disbelief overcame the day, the following morning it was announced that the Denver Cutthroats had stopped operations and were searching for new investors in order to compete in the 2015-2016 season. Later that night, after reports that the Arizona Sundogs would be the next team to fold, Mallards head coach and General Manager Terry Ruskowski confirmed the story.

Fans had been expectantly waiting for the CHL to release the schedule for the 2014-2015 season since mid-June, and the folding of two teams and talks of a league merger only delayed the release. The schedule was finally released at noon CST on August 27. The following day the play-off format was announced. The top six teams will begin the fight for the Ray Miron Cup, with the top two teams getting a bye for the first round—a bye meaning they will not play the first round. The first two rounds will be best-of-five series, while the Finals will be best-of-seven.

The Mallards’ season opener is on October 24 against the Rapid City Rush, with puck-drop at 7:05 p.m. Tickets start at $10 each, with glass-side tickets at $28 dollars each.