The Elbow staff
PRINCETON, NJ – One day after the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) announced its expansion into China, the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) has thrown down a gauntlet of its own to the NHL by unveiling plans to move south of the border.
Starting next season, there will be two teams based out of Mexico – one in the capital of Mexico City and the other in Chihuahua.
"We're excited about exploring what is a very untapped market in the hockey world," league spokesman Barry Gidon said today.
"With 122 million people in the country – and over eight million in Mexico City alone – it's a huge opportunity to increase the following in North America, and reintroduce the game to Latin America."
Mexico City's team will be called the Eagles – a name shared with one of the largest football teams in the country, while Chihuahua's team will be named after its spirit animal, the Chihuahua.
The teams will be required to list five Mexican nationals on the active roster at all times.
NHL spokeswoman Marie O'Reilly said that the league was not concerned about rival leagues stealing fans from other countries.
"We have always welcomed fans from all countries around the world to the NHL," she said. "The recent expansion plans don't bother us in the slightest."
Unrelated to the moves by the KHL and ECHL, the NHL said in a statement later in the day that they will be requiring all players to forgo helmets for sombreros, and introducing a Panda Express concession stand to each NHL arena.