The Colorado Eagles, one of the Central Hockey League’s marquee franchises, confirmed weeks of rumors about its future on Tuesday by announcing they will play next season in the ECHL.
The Eagles fell in Game 7 of the Presidents Cup Finals to the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs on Friday. Colorado, which was among the CHL’s top-drawing teams, reached the finals in five of the eight seasons it was in the league.
“We’ve enjoyed our time and many successes in the Central Hockey League. In fact, they’re the impetus that’s allowed us to be granted a spot in the ECHL,” said Eagles president Chris Stewart. “The Central Hockey League has helped us form the strong foundation that is allowing us to take this next step as an organization.”
Colorado joins Odessa and Quad City as teams that have either left for other leagues or folded. Meanwhile, Rio Grande Valley has closed its offices after failing to make payroll.
Rick Kozuback, who is CEO of Global Entertainment, which owns the CHL, said last week during a visit to Bloomington that the CHL will have 12 to 14 teams next season.
That would include a new franchise that has been issued to the East Coast investment team of Gary DelBuono and Sandra Hunnewell. They have reached a two-year lease agreement, with an option for a third, to put an expansion franchise into U.S. Cellular Coliseum for next season.
The CHL has yet to publicly recognize the new ownership.
CHL spokesman Bob Hoffman said the league now hopes to have its final roster of teams for the 2011-12 season set by the end of the week.
-- The press release from the CHL announcing Colorado’s departure said the Eagles’ players become unrestricted free agents. Hoffman said that ruling would not necessarily apply to players who spent last season with the Bloomington PrairieThunder and that a determination on their rights has not been made.
-- A source close to the league told The Pantagraph that the Rocky Mountain Rage may restart operations for the 2011-12 season. The Rage, based in Broomfield, Colo., ceased operations after the 2008-09 season.
-- PrairieThunder general manager Jim Riggs said that he is in the process of shutting down the team’s downtown office.