Wednesday, July 29, 2009

EHL Franchise History

1954 is the first year that the old Eastern Amateur Hockey League (EAHL) formed in 1933 became known as simply the Eastern Hockey League (EHL), which is the major reason I use that as the starting year for (Whereas the EHL 1959-60 yearbook refers to that year as the 25th anniversary of the EHL.) The EAHL shut down for the 1953-54 season, and when it reformed as the EHL, such standard EAHL teams as the Boston Olympics and the Atlantic City Seagulls, and the MSG based New York Rovers were no longer in the league. 1954-55 was the first EHL season of the Clinton Comets and New Haven Blades. The following year, Worcester dropped out and the "modern day" EHL footprint really started with the re-admitance of the Johnstown Jets back from two years in the IHL, the addition of the Philadelphia Ramblers, and Baltimore moving to Charlotte after their arena burned down.

Within that 20 year period, the EHL was a relatively stable league as minor leagues go. Most of the franchise movement was in the first two years and the last two years. There were 17 total "new" franchises, of which two only lasted 1 year and both were experiments of sorts. The 1954-55 Worcester Warriors were allegedly the old Boston Olympics franchise. However, they were also an attempt to see how a team of local US amateurs would fare up against teams of mostly Canadians. Their main purpose was to fill a spot in the league, so that the other teams could fill out their schedules for that year. The 1964-65 NY Rovers were created as a test of having a development team at MSG for the Rangers. In the end, the development was deemed a success, but the cost of running the franchise was deemed not.

Below is a list of "new" franchises, and where they moved to. It's possible that all of these moves were not exact franchise shifts. In the case of the Jersey Larks moving to Knoxville, I've seen it written as the Jersey franchise being discontinued and at the same time Knoxville starting, and I've seen it written as a straight franchise shift. Since the GM, Ray Miron, and most of the players remained the same (even back from the Washington Presidents), I list that as all one franchise.

On the other hand, the Suncoast Suns appeared at the same time the Nashville Dixie Flyers disbanded. They were clearly a new franchise, though at least in their first exhibition game wore the old Nashville pants. They also received a lot of Nashville players, but this was after Greensboro had purchased all the Nashville players and then sold the players they didn't want from the combined Nashville/Greensboro rosters to Suncoast.

Simple name changes were the Charlotte Clippers becoming the Checkers, the Washington Lions becoming the Presidents, and the NY Rovers becoming the Long Island Ducks. If like me you saw the Charlotte Clippers being as silly as the Hartford Whalers - nautical names for land based cities - know that there was actually a minor league football Charlotte Clippers that played all through the 40s.

The Salem Rebels became Roanoke Valley when they started splitting their home games at the Roanoke Civic Center. Likewise, the Jacksonville Rockets became the Florida Rockets for several seasons, playing part of their home schedules in West Palm Beach and St. Petersburg. They later reverted back to just Jacksonville.

No team played a full schedule of games every season in the same city. Clinton played a partial season in 1954-55, while also playing in the Eastern Ontario League that year. Johnstown was in the IHL for the 1954-55 season. New Haven was forced out of town to Springfield, MA for the 1972-73 season, but the New England Blades folded by Thanksgiving. The Baltimore/Charlotte franchise played full schedules every year, but were not in the same location.

The most franchises in any year was 12, in both 1967-68 and 1972-73.

Baltimore Clippers (1954-55) -> Charlotte Clippers (1956-60)-> Charlotte Checkers (1960-73)
Clinton Comets (1954-73)
New Haven Blades (1954-1972) -> New England Blades (1972)
Washington Lions -> Washington Presidents (1957-60)-> Jersey Larks (1960-61)-> Knoxville Knights (1961-68)
Worcester Warriors (1954-55)

Johnstown Jets (1955-73)
Philadelphia Ramblers (1955-64) -> Jersey Devils (1964-73)

Greensboro Generals (1959-73)
New York Rovers/Long Island Ducks (1959-61/1961-73)

Nashville Dixie Flyers (1962-71)

New York Rovers (1964-65)
Jacksonville Rockets/Florida Rockets (1964-71)

Syracuse Blazers (1967-1973)
Salem Rebels/Roanoke Valley Rebels (1967-73)

Suncoast Suns (1971-73)

Rhode Island Eagles (1972-73)
Cape Cod Cubs (1972-73)

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