WORCESTER – While many ECHL teams and fans are all locked into the 2017-18 Kelly Cup playoff chase, the league itself has already begun preparations for the 2018-2019 season, and they announced today several changes that will impact the Worcester Railers for next season.
The ECHL’s Board of Governors has approved St. John’s, Newfoundland for an expansion team to start next season. The still un-nicknamed St. John’s franchise will be run by Glenn Stanford, the long-time President of the IceCaps, the city’s latest entry in the American Hockey League that moved to Laval, Quebec after last season.
“We are pleased to welcome St. John’s to the ECHL,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna said via press release. “The city has a long and proud hockey history and, along with the Maine Mariners, will be strong additions to our North Division.”
The league usually requests an expansion franchise take a full year to start up and play, but with the two-time AHL Executive of the Year Stanford at the helm the St John’s franchise should have little issue hitting the ground running.
The was some divisional realignment with the addition of St John’s to the league, with the Wheeling Nailers leaving the North Division for the Central Division of the Western Conference. The Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Manchester Monarchs, and Reading Royals all stay in the North, and will be joined by the previously approved expansion team in Portland, Maine called the Maine Mariners.
The North Division will have a decidedly AHL feel to it for many fans as Worcester, Adirondack, Manchester, Maine (Portland), and St John’s have all previously hosted teams in that league.
In other league news that likely will have no major impact on the Railers, the Quad City Mallards have announced they will cease operations at the end of this season. The Colorado Eagles had previously announced they were withdrawing from the ECHL, and they will join the AHL as their 31st franchise.
Looking at the divisional map it’s easy to imagine the Railers making a couple trips to Canada, playing in Brampton, Ontario before flying from Toronto to St John’s to take on that team in what would likely be a three-in-three weekend in Newfoundland. Then they’d go back to Brampton before busing back to Worcester.
No matter how it works out on the road, Worcester hockey fans will definitely be hearing “Oh, Canada” a few extra times at the DCU Center next season.