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Four Leagues in Seven Seasons

05/31/2012 9:37 AM - Mike Peck
Here is some interesting stuff for all you diehard Rockford IceHogs fans regarding some old United Hockey League teams.

The Fort Wayne Komets announced this week that they are joining the ECHL for the 2012-13 season, jumping from the Central Hockey League after two seasons.

With FTW in the ECHL, that now makes three former UHL clubs in the ECHL. The Komets join the Kalamazoo Wings and Elmira Jackals.

The UHL disbanded following Rockford’s Colonial Cup Championship season in 2007 and there was some blame pointed at Rockford for starting the domino effect when they announced (officially anyways) in March of 2007 that the team was jumping to the American Hockey League.

The Quad City Mallards followed suit and moved to the AHL, while the Elmira Jackals changed over to the ECHL following that season. Two seasons later (2009-10) the Kalamazoo Wings also made the move to the ECHL from the rekindled International Hockey League which featured the left over UHL teams.

Quad City only lasted two years in the AHL and are now in the CHL.

Evansville (Icemen), Indiana also announced that they were switching from the CHL to the ECHL next season and that was a market originally targeted by the UHL throughout the early to mid-2000s as an expansion franchise.

Back to Fort Wayne for a moment….when the season commences in October, the Komets will have played in four different leagues in seven seasons (UHL, IHL, CHL and ECHL). That has to be unprecedented!

One thing I definitely don’t miss about the old U-haul days is the instability of the league and the year-in and year-out talk about the league folding or half the teams going under. From a front office standpoint, that is a huge burden lifted off our shoulders.

In 2006-07, the UHL ended the campaign with 10 teams and of those clubs, seven markets still have hockey (six in the professional ranks). Other than Rockford (AHL), Fort Wayne (ECHL), Kalamazoo (ECHL), Elmira (ECHL) and Quad City (CHL), Bloomington (CHL) and Muskegon (USHL) still have hockey. Muskegon’s team is a junior club.

That means Flint, Port Huron and Chicago (Hoffman Estates) are without hockey.

The professional minor league hockey landscape is ever changing as it is very high risk as an owner.  The CHL has gone through some big changes over the past five-six seasons, losing two of their cornerstone franchises in Oklahoma City (to the AHL) and Colorado (to the ECHL).  The league still does have 11 active teams, but is losing its southern (mainly Texas) footprint.

The ECHL continues to grow and will be up to 23 teams in 2012-13, spanning from coast-to-coast. It only makes sense that eventually the ECHL will match the AHL and NHL with 30 teams, giving professional hockey a very similar minor league system that professional baseball has with their AAA and AA levels.

Some Former Hogs Still Fighting For Rings

05/22/2012 3:36 PM - Mike Peck
It’s been well over a month now since the Rockford IceHogs last took to the ice, but there are five former IceHogs skaters (at three different levels) still playing playoff hockey and looking to add some hardware heading into the offseason.

Former IceHogs center Colin Fraser is with the L.A. Kings and the club is one win away from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.  Fraser was a member of the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup Championship team and combined with the 2009 Hawks playoff run, the center played in just five combined postseason games.

This time around, Fraser has skated in all 11 Kings playoff contests so far. After spending a season in Edmonton in 2010-11, Fraser appeared in 67 games with Kings this past regular season, notching 2g-6a-8pts after beginning the year on the IR.

An extremely hard working player, I’d love to see Fraser get a second Stanley Cup ring! He was a key member of Rockford’s 2007-08 team, the first in the AHL era.

For the second straight season, an IceHogs player was dealt around the trade deadline to an AHL Calder Cup contender and is helping fuel a run to the title. Brandon Segal’s Norfolk Admirals are also one win away from the Finals round as they are up 3-0 on St. John’s.

The former Hogs captain has 2g-3a-5pts in 13 Calder Cup Playoff games after accumulating 5g-6a-11pts in eight regular season tilts with the Admirals following his trade from Rockford. Segal also appeared in 10 games with Tampa Bay.

Three former Hogs are locked up in a tight ECHL Kelly Cup Playoff title run. Goalie Joe Fallon and forwards Peter MacArthur and Judd Blackwater are trying to earn their first professional championship with the Las Vegas Wranglers.

Both Fallon and MacArthur faced their former team in the AHL this season with Fallon playing twice against the IceHogs in March while with the Houston Aeros and MacArthur twice in April with Lake Erie. Fallon has been spectacular in the postseason, posting a 7-3 record with a 2.01 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.

MacArthur ranked fourth on the Wranglers in scoring during the regular season (16g-32a-48pts in 38 games) despite playing 25 games in the AHL. During the Kelly Cup Playoffs, the Clifton Park, New York native has 4g-5a-9pts in 13 games.

Blackwater has been a key contributor offensively in the playoffs as well for Las Vegas. The winger has 6g-8a-14pts in 15 playoff games, third best on the club. Blackwater had three goals in nine games with Rockford in 2008-09.

Las Vegas is down 2-1 in their best-of-seven championship series against the Florida EverBlades with Game 4 on Tuesday night in Florida.