By Brian Compton
NHL.com Staff Writer
After already losing the Augusta Lynx and Fresno Falcons during the 2008-09 campaign, the ECHL was hit with more bad news this week when it announced that the Dayton Bombers, Mississippi Sea Wolves and Phoenix RoadRunners would not be returning next season.
With the Toledo Walleye being the only new team for next season, the ECHL will have just 19 teams in 2009-10. Toledo will join the North Division (which could be renamed), along with Elmira, Johnstown, Wheeling and Cincinnati. Both Trenton and Reading will join a division that will also consist of Charlotte, South Carolina, Gwinnett and Florida.
The teams in the National Conference will have just four teams in each division. The West consists of Alaska, Idaho, Utah and Victoria, while the Pacific features Bakersfield, Ontario, Las Vegas and Stockton.
To get a better feel of the current state of the ECHL, NHL.com landed an exclusive interview with ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna.
NHL.com: Were you blindsided by any of these teams’ departures, or were you fully aware that this was going to happen?
McKenna: Not at all. We had known for a period of weeks, if not months about what was going on. There were efforts in all situations to look at alternatives, whether it was finding new ownership or different solutions. We weren’t blindsided. Our efforts are trying to get in front of this so there is balance in our league and our teams have a chance to be successful. It’s been a testing two or three months, but we’re trying to get out in front of it and deal with it. At this point, we feel good going into the summer. The product on the ice is good.