Admirals return to the ECHL with some familiar foes.
The Scope will still host East Division hockey games next year, albeit at an ECHL level. Norfolk has been placed in the Eastern Division of the Eastern Conference, alongside fellow former AHL clubs Adirondack and Manchester. Rounding out the group are current ECHL squads the Reading Royals and Elmira Jackals.
Reading is in familiar territory for the Ads, about a half-hour’s drive further than Hershey and a half-hour’s drive closer than the Allentown, home to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Elmira, like Binghamton, is part of New York’s Southern Tier, and a half-hour’s drive further than the Sens. Norfolk has traveled to Manchester for AHL games, but typically twice a year. Adirondack was a recent destination for the Ads when Glens Falls hosted the Phantoms. Thus, there will be some familiarity in their road trips.
Given their conference, expect the Ads to play the likes of the Wheeling Nailers and the ECHL’s South Division (South Carolina, Greenville, Gwinnett, Orlando, Florida) as well. Score one for the ECHL on this front: fans will most likely see a healthy dose of the Western Conference at Scope. The AHL let Charlotte, and only Charlotte, come to the Scope from the Western Conference in recent years. Never mind the bevy of upstate New York teams that could possibly make it to Scope (the Amerks? Utica?) , the AHL had other plans. Expect some Western Conference teams to make the trip to Hampton Roads.
If I had to guess, Norfolk will see a few games from teams in the Midwest Division such as former affiliate Fort Wayne and Jarrod Skalde’s old friends, the Cincinnati Cyclones. A variety of opponents is quite the departure and allows for a different game watching experience. Contrast this to the AHL Pacific, which may play 60 games against itself, while the rest of the AHL may play 72 games. What a league.
Affiliation is something worth considering. Norfolk will be with the Edmonton Oilers, and directly affiliated with the Bakersfield Condors. The rest of the division is a bit different. Reading is currently affiliated with the Phantoms and Flyers, and I wouldn’t expect that to change. All three teams are conveniently located in Eastern Pennsylvania, which I ‘m sure works for all parties. Elmira, surprisingly, is with Buffalo and Rochester. Given that all of those teams are located in Western New York, that should stand pat as well.
Manchester and Adirondack present interesting cases. Though owned by the Kings, the Monarchs also share an affiliation with the Winnipeg Jets/St. John’s IceCaps. New Hampshire is ridiculously closer than the Inland Empire when it comes to St. John’s players. Will that relationship continue? Further, the Adirondack Team Names are owned by the Flames, who will obviously make Glens Falls their ECHL home. Currently, the Stockton Thunder host the Islanders. Given the location, will the Islanders/Sound Tigers share their ECHL team with the Flames?
Many teams are without AHL affiliations in the ECHL right now, mostly due to the late absorption of the CHL. I think this will change in the offseason, but some teams will share. 30 AHL teams right now and 28 ECHL teams means every team will not be directly linked with another. While that is the goal–it may be a year off.