The San Francisco Bulls have folded with 32 games remaining in their ECHL schedule, as the team announced it was ceasing operation after 16 months of play. From the Bulls:
The San Francisco Bulls Professional Hockey team closes its doors after a season and a half, since the first game was played at the Cow Palace in October of 2012. “We want to thank all of our fans for your support and loyalty over the last two seasons,” said President and Head Coach of the Bulls, Pat Curcio. “It’s been such a memorable time here with you in San Francisco, and we’ve especially appreciated all of your positive feedback over the past week.”
The team was hoping to secure new ownership, however the terms of an updated deal were unable to be finalized.
“We had a great opportunity come to us that would’ve kept the Bulls in San Francisco at least through the end of the 2014 season, with potential for future seasons, but we ran out of time to complete all ends of the deal,” said Curcio. “At this point, the best thing to do financially is to reluctantly end the season. We will miss playing here, miss our fans, and miss this city.”
It’s a sad tale from the Bay Area, as the San Jose Sharks affiliate hoped new owners could keep the franchise going by moving it to Oakland or Fresno. The team lost a reported $2 million last season and the picture was just as bleak this season.
So what happens to the players and the ECHL with a team suddenly folding? Here’s a quick FAQ:
Q. So the Bulls folded with 32 games remaining on their schedule; are those games officially forfeits a.k.a. automatic wins for their ECHL opponents?
No, they’re not forfeits, even though one of the teams could play in the game and the other doesn’t exist any longer. According to Joe Babik of the ECHL:
“The games are not forfeits. We are in the process of building an updated schedule for each team. The eight teams in the Eastern Conference will all play their 36 home games, though some of the dates, and obviously opponents, will change. Not all road games will be guaranteed, so there is a possibility that some teams may play more, or fewer, than the normal 72 games.”
So a new schedule will be produced to balance out the games the Bull has surrendered, in an attempt to make an equitable solution for playoff seeding.
That’s fair – imagine how pissed off the teams that were part of the Bulls' 15 wins would have been if future opponents received a free ‘W’ because the Bulls folded now?
Q. What happens to the Bulls players?
According to the ECHL collective bargaining agreement, the Bulls players are now unrestricted free agents, provided they have an ECHL contract and are not on assignment from the AHL or NHL, i.e. on two-way contracts. Leading scorer Dean Ouellet, with 30 points in 38 games, is now a free agent, for example.
Q. What about the players on two-way deals?
Any players on an NHL or AHL contract would have to be reassigned to another club by the team holding their contract. CSN Bay Area reports that the Sharks have five players under contract with the Bulls in goaltender J.P Anderson, defensemen Kyle Bigos and Steven Tarasuk, and forwards Riley Brace and Sebastian Stalberg. Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they will be reassigned "in the very near future.”
Q. What Will The Sharks Do For An Affiliate?
The Mercury News reports that the Sharks will likely align with another California minor league team as a secondary option behind Worcester in the AHL. The ECHL teams in the Golden State – the Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings & Winnipeg Jets), the Stockton Thunder (Islanders) and Bakersfield Condors (Oilers) – are spoken for, although teams can have multiple feeder franchises. (The Florida Everblades have players from the Hurricanes and the Lightning.)
Q. What happens to SF Bulls ticket owners?
According to the Bulls: “For fans that have already purchased tickets to upcoming games, the Bulls' Staff will take requests for refunds up until February 28 via E-MAIL ONLY. Season ticket holders and single game ticket holders can contact their ticket reps for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“Requests for refunds?” We really hope that means “refunds.”