The International and Central Hockey Leagues confirmed the expected on Tuesday in a joint news release announcing the formation of an "AA super league."
The announcement of a letter of intent to combine forces in what will be known as the CHL essentially was all that announcment revealed.
Exactly how the combined league will look and work will be determined over the coming days, at the CHL's scheduled summer meetings in Phoenix this week and at a similar IHL summer session in Las Vegas in mid-June.
IHL commissioner Dennis Hextall, however, said plans call for four teams - the Quad-City Mallards, Fort Wayne Komets, Dayton Gems and Bloomington PrairieThunder - to join 13 CHL crews in what will be called the Central Hockey League.
That would leave 2009-2010 IHL outfits in Flint and Port Huron, Mich., out in the cold. But Hextall said even that number carried a caveat.
"Tomorrow we could have anywhere from four to seven," the first-year IHL boss said. "We're working on some other ones."
Among the countless other details that must be ironed out in the coming weeks is arranging a possible vote by players in the non-union IHL to approve terms of an existing collective bargaining agreement for the unionized CHL, Mallards managing owner Chris Lencheski suggested.
Lencheski also predicted the two leagues will settle on playing by CHL rules - enlisting its $10,450 weekly salary cap, 19-player roster and four-veteran limit.
He also predicted the league will play a 64-game CHL schedule that is two games fewer than the IHL was scheduled to play next year and six fewer games than the IHL played last winter.
Hextall said the likely outcome from the meetings will be an IHL division within the CHL, with a limited amount of inter-division games on the schedule.
Depending on how many former IHL teams ultimately survive, a few current CHL teams could be part of the Midwest-based division.
"I compare it to the American and National Leagues in baseball," Hextall said. "They have their own leagues with a little crossover schedule."
Lencheski - who will cut a London business meeting short to attend the CHL meetings Thursday and Friday in Phoenix -said he favors a more inclusive schedule than the one described by Hextall.
"We're going to be playing a mixture of teams," he said. "To what level, I don't know. I would like to play the Arizona Sundogs."
Lencheski confirmed there is a buy-in cost for incoming IHL teams, but would not name a number.
He also said that price and a certain increase in the Mallards travel budget are offset by the benefits of joining forces with the CHL.
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"If it's a little bit more travel to create greater stability and a much stronger league, it's worth it," he said. "I believe, and I think others do too, this is a really great thing for minor league hockey."
Scott Mullen, executive director of the i wireless Center, certainly is a member of that camp, even if it means fewer games at his building.
"If you get rid of some of those weekday games, it should be good," he said. "They can focus on higher attendance for the weekends."
The combined league will be the fourth to host a Q-C pro hockey team in a matter of five years.
IHL teams also entertained an opportunity to join the ECHL in the last month, but, with a new minimum of 17 teams, Lencheski said the CHL offered more strength in numbers.
Lencheski declined to discuss how the change in leagues might impact a potential sale of the team by his QCHT LLC ownership group.
"I don't want to address that question," he said. "That's unfair. I didn't do (this) for that reason. You do it for the stability of the organization."