ECHL-CHL Merger?

ECHL MAP (HockeyMayhem.com)

ECHL MAP (HockeyMayhem.com)

If you believe the things you read on Twitter, then the ECHL and the Central Hockey League (CHL) are on a collision course for a merger.

Agent Darryl Wolski Tweeted Aug. 5 “Hearing the ECHL and CHL are in talks to merge both leagues.”

Whenever it happens — it’s being said if the merger rumor is true it would take place for the 2015-16 season — the nine-team CHL would be folded into the 22 team mix of the ECHL to create a 31-team league with a truer Western/Eastern Conference alignment.

CHL Map (hockeymahem.com)

CHL Map (hockeymahem.com)

That’s the good — along with more hockey in more markets. And, who doesn’t want that?

The bad, though, is the blow for veteran hockey players.

ECHL roster rules stipulate that each team is limited to four veterans on its active roster during the season — including playoffs. A veteran, according to the rulebook, “shall mean a player, other than a goaltender, who has played in at least 260 regular season games of professional hockey.” The following stipulation applies: “any player signed to a NHL or AHL contract which contains an ECHL assignment provision shall be exempt from the foregoing rule.

Notwithstanding the above, any player assigned to an ECHL member team on a NHL or AHL contract shall be deemed to be a veteran if said player is 24 years or older and has participated in 260 regular season professional hockey games as of the opening day of the season of said year.”

Games played in all professional North American Leagues at the “AA” level or higher, past and present, will count toward a player’s veteran status.

If that’s the rule that’s kept and not adopted from the CHL — which considers someone to be a veteran at 300 games — then it’s a big deal for wannabe hockey lifers.

Moreover, the rumored merger could mean exposure for some of these players for AHL clubs. However, the AHL has rules about veterans on a team, too.

In the AHL, “Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a regular-season game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, IHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.”

So, of 18 skaters on an AHL roster, only five can be veterans of 320 or more games. When you count CHL and ECHL games, those game numbers ramp up pretty quickly. Add the AHL games, if they’re so lucky to get called up, and now you’re talking almost instant veteran.

Players aside, however, this merger can mean bigger bucks for the ECHL. The more teams, the more ticket and merchandising revenue. The bigger the league, the bigger the ticket sales, the bigger the merchandising, the more of an opportunity for TV deals. The opportunity for TV deals, be it national or local, the opportunity for it to become an even more elite “AA” level of hockey.

It also gives the hockey fans something else to cheer about. Plenty of NHL fans currently keep a close eye on the AHL, and this merger could mean more eyes on the ECHL, too.

And, for me, the more eyes on hockey, the better.

Editor’s Note: The two maps found on HockeyMayhem.com illustrate the geographical gaps and logic for the merger.

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