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It’s official: CHL, IHL to join forces

CHLThe exact makeup of the new circuit is still to be determined, but officials with both leagues hope to have a final count of 18 franchises in the new Central Hockey League.

It is less a merger than the absorption of four or so IHL teams into the CHL, pushing the total size of the circuit to 18 teams.

That may be optimistic. Really, almost everything associated with this “merger” is still up in the air, including the specific teams moving to the CHL; you can bet Quad City and Fort Wayne will be making the move; past it’s anyone’s guess. Bloomington’s Prairie Thunder is also a good bet to make the move, but Flint is a long shot (given there’s a disputed lease in place), as is Dayton. The owners of the Muskegon franchise have already committed to a NAHL team next season.

We also expect more CHL to suspend operations for the 2010-2011 season; Amarillo is already a casualty, leaving 14 CHL teams as it stands right now. Making 18 teams could be a stretch.

“The arrangement between the CHL and the IHL should create an innovative and exciting “AA” level professional hockey league which is scheduled to start play in the 2010-2011 season,” said Dennis Hextall, IHL Commissioner.  “The two leagues each have longstanding histories and share the common goal of solidifying minor professional hockey for our players, our passionate fans and their communities.  I believe this arrangement will enable our teams to recruit the best young talent to join our league, with the potential of improving their game and moving up to the higher leagues.”

“This is an exciting day for our teams and markets,” said Duane Lewis, CHL Commissioner.  “Both leagues have worked hard to establish tremendous entertainment at a great value for their fans, and by combining our resources we believe we can strengthen those efforts providing greater fan interest as well as a stronger brand.”

Operating guidelines, including the teams competing in the CHL, divisional alignment, the 2010-11 regular season schedule and various hockey operations issues will be discussed at the CHL Summer Conference (league meetings) occurring June 3-5 in Gilbert, Arizona and will continue at the IHL meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 21-23.