Last night the Youngstown Steelhounds, despite their weekend rebound, were knocked out of the CHL playoffs with a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Eagles. It may be the first round, but to me that isn’t too bad. It’s great they made the playoffs in only their second season, and its also very good news they have the CHL MVP in Jeff Christian.
So as the ‘Hounds enter the off-season, many changes will come about. Players will switch teams, coaches may leave and hopefully general manager Joe Gregory will stay put, and they won’t face a merry-go-round of GM changes. But the biggest, most dramatic change of all could possibly be a change of scenery: it is an ongoing struggle, but owner Herb Washington is trying to move the team to the ECHL .
This is a move I whole-heartedly endorse. Never minding the fact the CHL is owned by ‘that company in Arizona’, the Steelhounds are geographically much better suited for the ECHL.
Think about it a moment. Youngstown is the only CHL franchise east of the Mississippi River, and half the league is in Texas alone. And with Global’s plans to build arenas in states like Arizona, New Mexico and Washington, the Steelhounds will continue to take west coast roadtrips and play home games in relative isolation from the rest of the league. So why don’t we admit the Steelhounds have no true rivals in this league, or at least no opponents we can get excited about. I mean, unless we all start sending really bad vibes to the Gulf Coast of Texas, I doubt there will be anything at stake emotionally the next time the Steelhounds play the Corpus Christi Rayz. Or the teams in Laredo, Odessa or Oklahoma City for that matter. Every team in the league is just too far away for anyone here to truly get excited about, and thus teams just play hockey without everyone in the arena’s emotions running high, which partially takes the fun out of sports I believe.
The ECHL, on the other hand, has a chance to be the opposite for the ‘Hounds. True, this league features teams as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska, but there are also six teams between Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (locations being Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Johnstown, Reading and Wheeling). These cities aren’t Cleveland or Pittsburgh, but they’re close enough to make me interested when they come into Youngstown. Further, the team can at least advertise Cincinnati, Dayton or Toledo as our “in-state rivals”. Emotions might not change that much, but at least the ‘Hounds wouldn’t be isolated from every other team. That and Youngstown could be playing in hockey’s “premiere AA league”. It’s a matter of opinion of course, but the CHL doesn’t boast it.
Problem is, this transition isn’t a reality. Washington is being held up in the courts by the CHL, and for the time being can’t switch. According to a reliable source, the CHL wants something in return for Youngstown’s departure, namely an ECHL team. There is a Texas ECHL team based in Beaumont, and the CHL is also considered “AA”, but they may not be willing to move, nor might any other team for that matter. It’s an on-going process, and not much media attention has been given to the case, something that’ll likely stay unless a great development comes soon. But with the start of another hockey season about six months away, plenty of time has been left for updates and dealings, so like every other development in Youngstown, we’ll have to wait and see…