How To Influence Stock Holders and Ruin Young Player’s Trust

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If you haven’t heard of the USA Central Hockey League, and judging by the numbers– you haven’t; it’s a new junior league that was announced in March of 2018. By all accounts, the league was going to be free of USA Hockey involvement and was marketed as a “free-to-play” system much like the USHL and NAHL, while players are able to keep their college eligibility– but much, much poorer.

This seems to be a branch off the horribly planned Central 1 Hockey League, which also was supposed to be the next big thing in junior hockey with no USA Hockey affiliation and the same stuff that this USACHL wanted to be. However, it was announced in 2016 and never hit the ice, taking a lot of bigger markets in Oklahoma City, El Paso, and Fort Collins out of the WSHL and into obscurity.

While the USACHL promised six teams at their announcement by league owner Bill Davidson– they currently have three teams, which could be down to zero by the time this is published. The Texas Lawmen folded when players left, the coach resigned and money was owed to a lot of people; while the Wichita Falls Force having been locked out of their building and according to billets, their kids have packed up and left. Davidson says that the Force are not folding, but it doesn’t look all that great either. Parents of players in Laredo are trying to get their kids home as they have been told the league is done.

A great write-up about what’s going on was done by Cilla Hagle of JuniorHockey.com, though it’s to be said that a prime writer for the website, Stephen Heisler, was a paid consultant for the league and had a number of his clients put into the league. His and people who go to him for comment may have their opinions skewed on what they experienced. However, where there’s smoke, there’s fire– and after reading a lot about this– I’m tending to agree with Heisler’s words.

Forget for a second that this whole thing was a disaster from the word go because of the fail ventures of previous incarnations of Central Hockey Leagues, but this is something that affects the players who trusted Davidson to give them a place to play and give them exposure into the NCAA ranks and beyond. You want to ruin a player’s trust and make them question the decisions they have made and will make in the future– this is a prime example of how that is to happen. Hell, it could cause these kids to lash out against their next coaches, GMs, owners, and so on. There’s a lot of collateral damage being done by a league like this. While this shouldn’t matter to teams looking for solid caliber players, especially when they went to this league on the hope of getting the exposure they were initially told was there.

Not only the players, but the parents of these players are going to start protecting their kid more– and rightfully so. There’s been no transparency from the league, not one member being upfront about what’s going on with teams and players– it’s just the CEO in Davidson trying to say it’s not his fault, it’s everyone else’s. Newspapers are learning from Facebook posts, billets are keeping fans and families up to date when the teams and league aren’t.

This is how you push people away– not just from playing, but from supporting hockey. It’s snake-oil salesmen like Davidson who really give people the wrong impression of hockey people and if they’re well-meaning or not. This whole thing is a case of how not to build, promote, or have anything to do with the hockey world.

Forming the Maryland NAHLers

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It’s been a week since the NAHL announced that they’ll be putting a team at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton for the 2018-19 season. While I’ve reached out to the ownership group to talk about the team and how they are going to get things going, there has not been a reply thus far– so we will only have to speculate. Yes, we had some fun on the April 18th Face Off Hockey Show, there are some ideas that should be floated out there in order to make this team successful in the community and in the league. So– why not have a rough draft here??

Solid Coaching/Management is a Must: When you’re thinking about this league, it’s purely about development and getting these young players to the next level. There’s plenty of candidates out there, but for a first year team in an unnatural location, you’d probably want to have a coach who knows the area not just for people to recognize, but for him to help these players adjust to the area and know how and where to go and where not to. For me, if you can shoot for DeMatha Catholic’s head coach Tony MacAulay— it would be a huge get. Now, it’ll be hard-pressed to get him away from DeMatha– where he has been from 1997 until 2002 and then from 2007 until present day– but it would be a big opportunity for him to get back into a bigger scene, as well as be a huge plus for the development of the players, while bringing a winning pedigree with five state championships to show for his work. If they can convince him and he’s willing– it’d be a huge get for this team.

It’s All in the Name: To a less serious thing– the team name needs to be very Maryland. While the NAHL hyped that Odenton is a suburb of Baltimore– the distance between Odenton and Baltimore is just five miles shorter than Odenton to the DC area. This team needs to be the pride of the entire state rather than one metropolitan area over another. Plus, the amount you could use the flag in the color scheme– though cliche at this point– is perfect for the team to make a splash. Not only that– we all know that branding is a huge deal in these days. If the look is slick, you can have merchandise sold hand over fist. And yes, we’re pushing for “Maryland Crabs” hard for a name– anything that is state related will be solid…but we’ll still call ’em the Crabs.

Embrace Your Surroundings: Sure, the NAHL is looking for high school kids to come and join the league and it could be a competition to some people– the new team needs to embrace the high school hockey culture of Maryland and not only promote themselves to the masses through the Mid Atlantic Prep Hockey League, but promote the local hockey around since the timing of the games will be different in most cases. Hell, even see what it’ll take to get the Capitals on board with this whole thing and see how much you can get promoted that way because that’d surely be a big get for people who may not be able to go and see the Capitals all the time due to location and pricing.  On top of that– get the media involved in a big way. The Maryland Gazette is a good start for local news in the Anne Arundel County area, but outside of the newspaper; look at local radio like WNAV in Annapolis, which is owned by Caps super-fan Pat Sajak. Not only that but– hey, Face Off Hockey Show is AA County-based and we’ll promote like no one’s business if you want to be promoted. It’s all about getting the word and the hype out there and people will acknowledge it.

Look to the Future Rink-wise: In February of 2018, the Piney Orchard Ice Arena brass said they were still looking for a second rink to be put in the vicinity. It has been a rumor for the longest time that they wanted to add a rink, so much so that they have wishful thinking on their video boards claiming all events are held at “Rink 1” of a one rink arena. However, with the NAHL team– they should focus around building something bigger than just the idea of a single-sheet of ice like they wanted. Personally– build some stands, updated locker rooms, just a full rebuild of it all in order to keep this team here a long time.

I’m sure this will be a bit of a running list, but it’s a start to making this team successful for the long run of not only the NAHL, but for the interest in area hockey.

Odenton, Maryland Granted NAHL Franchise

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It was announced late Thursday that Odenton, Maryland will be the latest addition to the NAHL for the 2018-19 season, as Piney Orchard Ice Arena will be the home to this currently unnamed team. For someone who played their club hockey career at Piney Orchard (RIP Chesapeake Chiefs), this is an amazing development for hockey in Maryland.

For those who don’t know, the NAHL is the second-tier Junior league, right under the USHL. They’ve been around for 42 years and have teams all over the US and is a great catalyst for players to get to the NCAA level. It will be the first time a team is based out of Maryland, which is a little odd for the placement for the team.

When it comes to hockey in Maryland, which I’m a big supporter of, this is great. This will put a spotlight on the area, and while the kids won’t always be from the Old Line State– the fact that it could give some of the local high school kids something to shoot for on a higher level they probably wouldn’t have had right in their backyard.

NAHL is decent hockey, but I hope people in the area don’t expect Major Juniors like in Canada and northern states– it will be very developmental based and will need a lot of patience for the team to really flourish. Yet, it’s a good first step to really show off how much hockey can be supported in Maryland outside of the Washington Capitals.

About the arena– like I said, I played at Piney as a youth and was there when it opened almost 30 years ago. I’m surprised a place like the Laurel Ice House or Rockville Ice Arena wasn’t a choice, as they are a bit more modern than Piney– but who knows what Piney has in store for upgrades– which I think they’ll need in order to have players as competitive as they need to be in this league.

This is a great day for Maryland hockey. To have a league like this put a team in the central Maryland area is tremendous. If anything, it could get some shine on the college programs in the area and maybe even boost those teams to try and get some D1 consideration– looking at you, Navy and maybe you, Stevenson University— but if nothing else– this is a start of a new era of hockey in Maryland.

Hope you all are along for the ride because I may have to spend a lot of time on this subject going forward.

 

Golden Homecoming for Maryland’s Haley Skarupa

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Haley Skarupa/ Photo by Jen Conway (@NHLHistorygirl)

The US Women’s National Team has been on a non-stop media tour since winning the country’s first gold medal in 20 years. For defender Haley Skarupa, she says that it started to hit her of this accomplishment on the flight back to the US.

“I was thinking about it from our flight back from Korea,” Skarupa remembered during media availability Saturday night in Annapolis. “It was the first time it started to sink in that, ‘Wow, we’re going back to the United States bringing our country a gold medal.’ You can’t put words to that experience. You’re kinda going non-stop, but it’s good.”

The Rockville, Maryland native played in all five games for the US, though she did not register a point during the tournament, helped the defense for the US keep a co-tournament low of five goals against during the Olympics. Saturday night at the NHL Stadium Series game in Annapolis was a sort of homecoming for Skarupa, who was a Capitals fan when she was growing up.

“It’s awesome to come back here,” said Skarupa. “I was going to come back and watch this game regardless with my family and friends, but it’s awesome to come back here with my teammates and bring home a gold medal and show it to my family and friends.”

One of the last moments of the celebration of the gold medal was the fact that two flags were on the ice were the USA flag and the flag of Maryland. It was brought on the ice by Skarupa’s former teammates from the Washington Pride.

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Kelly Sherman, Haley Skarupa, and Kat Mackey/ Photo by Kush Sidhu

“Two of my best friends (Kelly Sherman and Kat Mackey) literally flew in the day before the game,” Skarupa said. “I didn’t know they brought the flag– it was so dang cool to see that. I brought it down, took a picture with it and it was so crazy to bring a piece of home out there with me. I love the flag it’s great. It’s so much cooler than all the other ones.”

While Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic is without a professional women’s team, the game has been growing in the girls’ ranks. Ranging from U12 to U19, the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (AKA the DMV) area has been starting to grow with the influx of girls picking up the sport– something that may rise from the USA winning gold.

“The sport has come a long way in this area,” explained Skarupa. “It used to be you play boys’ hockey until you’re in high school. Nowadays, there’s so many girls’ teams in the area. At the clinic, there was over 200 girls register from the DMV area. It’s awesome and really exciting. To see how far it’s come since I’ve been playing has been really incredible.”

Despite not playing on a girls’ team until she was in her teens, Skarupa relished the challenge of playing on the boys’ roster. It’s something she said that was fairly invaluable to her development to where she is today.

“I loved playing against the boys,” remember Skarupa. “They challenge you, they’re aggressive, and they’re ruthless. I played until I was 12 against the boys and then my brother and his friends out in the driveway. Getting beat up by the boys really helps you in the long run. Getting to prove the boys wrong is a good feelings.”

The Rockville native doesn’t forget her roots. She said she had numerous people coming up to here this week from people who went to pre-school with her to old teachers from Wooten High School. She also credits former Capital Jeff Halpern (and to an extent his Astro Donuts store) for helping her on her way to development.

“Jeff Halpern helped me throughout my career,” mentioned Skarupa. “We both skated through the same power-skating coach, Wendy Marco and Cold Rush and he became a coach there. Skating with him helped push me, too. He’s a great role model for this area with his success and how he gives back to the community.”

While she is riding high now, Skarupa is also taking the future into account with a clearer head. She said that she’s taking it one day at a time and while there’s not a team there and Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis hasn’t talked to her about one coming through– she believes the area should be rewarded with a professional team sooner rather than later.

“In the future, women’s pro hockey should expand to this area,” according to Skarupa. “With all the girls that play here and all the interest, there’s a huge opportunity for women’s hockey in this area.”

Maryland Hockey History: The Best American Team Ever

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1942-43 Coast Guard Cutters/ Photo via Department of Defense

With the Naval Academy being the background for this weekend’s Stadium Series, it’d be the perfect time to bring up what could be the greatest team in the history of Maryland hockey, as well as the greatest team a Service Academy has produced and one of the greatest amateur teams around– the United States Coast Guard Cutters who were based out of Curtis Bay, Maryland and played their games at Carlin’s Iceland in Baltimore.

Though they only played for two seasons in the Eastern League, they were extremely competitive, even in practice– when they had intra-squad games that some said were brutal massacres. Special ambulances were there for the practices and games for this reason, while also having the 30-piece marching band to follow the team around. The team started a riot in Philadelphia that started on the ice, went into the stands, and made the riot police show up to break it up.

And while they played in an “amateur” hockey league, the roster was anything but. Rangers captain Art Coutler, Boston goalie Frank Brimsek, Chicago defensemen John Mariucci and Manny Cotlow, as well as Detroit’s Alex Motter were amongst the NHLers who enlisted in the Coast Guard and then joined up to play hockey for the team as a stress reliever.

The Cutters won two National Championships in their time around the Eastern League, they defeated the Allan Cup (Canadian Amateur champions) Ottawa Commandos, while also taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings– though they lost 8-3 in that game.

Much like the Orioles at Carlin’s before them, the Cutters were loved by the Baltimore crowd, but loathed by everyone else. Their all-out, take-no-prisoner style was endearing to some, but it’s something you didn’t want to play against or see have played against your team. With all the talent, they were hard-pressed to be outworked, out-disciplined, or outplayed on every night.

However, with this team being the focus during war time, the higher-ups in the academy didn’t take too kindly to others sacrificing plenty overseas while this team was still playing and not being deployed like the other servicemen. After two seasons– one of which was ended 11 games into the season– the team was broken up due to the need for reinforcements during the end of World War II.

While this team is often forgotten due to time and circumstances, their greatness is something that should be remembered. Especially with this game not only being played at the Naval Academy, but also since the Olympics were just held– this team could be the greatest American team compiled of their era.

For more on this– check out the long-read from the Coast Guard Hockey Organization, as well as the story from Stan Fischler when he was with The Hockey News.

TEPID TAKE: Olympic Rosters What They Should Be

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You can bitch and moan about the Olympic rosters not giving you what you want out of a hockey tournament– but to be honest, it’s exactly what it should be, if not a little too pro for the “amateur” Games. In fact, the stories of redemption in these rosters are exactly what the Olympics and Olympic hockey needs.

This is coming from the whole host of “Who’s this guy??” and “There’s where he went??” sentiments when Canada unveiled their Olympic roster on Thursday. There was a bit of that coming from the US roster reveal earlier in the month, but Canada has a better ratio of those questions per hockey capita.

But people became spoiled with the NHL. It came at a very formidable time for fans in the late ’90s when the NHL was becoming a hotter property than it had been in the past. People had grown accustomed to having their favorite team go on hiatus and cheering for a rival player because they played for the same country you lived in. Those people are also the ones who loved “Miracle” and don’t realize that they’re kind of seeing that some thing play out here in a more “Bull Durham” aspect.

For me, these rosters and the stories that can be made from them are what will actually make me keep track of Olympic hockey. Not the NHLers, these guys who had tasted from the NHL fountain only to be told their not good enough and had to make their own path elsewhere. A good redemption story is one not to be overlooked. For guys who haven’t had things go their way– this is the perfect situation for them to actually go their way. These guys will take even more pride in wearing their countries colors because of the fact they won’t get to wear them otherwise due to the NHL players taking those spots most likely in the World Championships. Why are people worried about other guys not having a moment when they want to selfishly give it to an NHL who will have plenty of moments domestically and internationally.

Listen– the NHL will be back to the Olympics in 2022. The IIHF wants it, the NHL wants it, begrudgingly– the IOC wants it. It’ll happen because that’s how sports work now– it’s a business rather than a game. To have NHL players play in an untapped market of China would do gangbusters for everyone….should everyone want to play nicely and give-and-take as needed.

That said– let these guys have the moment. Watch, either live or on tape-delay, go in with an open mind, and appreciate the stories these guys are creating and what they’ll be able to tell their friends and family of the experience. While they are still pros, this is the true Olympic story of underdogs, redemption, pure love of the sport– which means playing wherever you get the chance to play.

Marylander Giles Helping Non-Traditional Developmental Area Get Noticed

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Patrick Giles/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

It may not come as a surprise to you (especially with my rantings on it), but Maryland isn’t the biggest hockey factory in the USA. In fact, some would think it’s one of the outliers despite the Washington Capitals being around in the area for over 40 years. The thing is that it hasn’t been until recently that there has been a surge of players who come out of Maryland that weren’t sons of Capitals players.

One of the players who are leading the charge for the younger ages Maryland players is Patrick Giles. Currently playing with the US National Team Development Program, Giles left Landon School after his sophomore year, which is very unheard of when it comes to Maryland players. Sam Anas, who also went to Landon, played all four seasons before moving on with Quinnipiac University and then to an NHL contract.

“Leaving Landon was hard, especially with all my friends there,” said Giles after the USNTDP game against North Dakota. “The coaching there was phenomenal for Maryland hockey. They definitely helped me with my development and get where I am today.”

Of course, for a 16-year-old to get up and leave high school is fairly hard, but when it’s going for your dream– it’s a risk you have to take. When given an opportunity like Giles was given, one would have to leap to a chance; though not without a lot of thought put into it.

“It was tough at first,” Giles remember,  “But, after I got the call that I made it, it was pretty easy because it’s such a big opportunity and I couldn’t turn it down. But it was definitely hard to leave my family.”

While there has been a number of players to play college from Maryland, especially in Division I recently, Giles is getting a bit of a head start with the U18 USNTDP program. The team does participate in a partial USHL schedule, as well as international tournaments, but the team does face-off in exhibitions against Division I and Division III schools to see how they fare and stack up. With many of those on the U18 team already committed to D1 schools, it’s a good test.

What’s great about this team is it gives us the experience to play against top colleges,” mentioned Giles– a Boston College commit. “It lets us ready for college and wherever else we may decide to play in in the future.”

While the team is made up of other college commits, it’s also full of draft eligible players. The likes of Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, and Rick DiPietro have been through the NTDP system and been top draft picks. However, Giles and his teammates don’t seem to be concerned with that saying that they really just focus on the next game. However, if he does get drafted– he’d be (by my count) the fourth Maryland-born player to be drafted into the NHL– Jeff Brubaker, Jeremy Duchesne, and Graham McPhee being the other three.

With Giles, along with Adam Varga in the OHL, paving the way for Maryland to perhaps become more visible on the prospect-front and have more kids not have to go outside the state in order to get noticed. Giles takes it to heart and takes pride in being from Maryland.

“Coming from Maryland, a couple of guys have gone the same route,” said Giles. “Just being from a non-traditional market like Maryland, it’s been great to have the support for my state and from my family. It’s been a great experience for me.”

PSA: Maryland Jerseys On Sale Now

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While this isn’t a paid product placement at all, I’ve got to let everyone know that the University of Maryland club hockey team is releasing their jerseys for sale for the month of January.

A link to their Google Form for the jersey is here and you should definitely look into getting one because they are slick as hell. At the price point of $120 plus $10 shipping, it’s a pretty decent deal to say the least.

More over, it’s to help the team out. Which they are trying to get the pride of Maryland out to the masses, it also is helping pay the teams bills. The club hockey team has to pay a lot of things out of pocket– especially for ice time and uniforms. The team set up a Go Fund Me earlier in the year to help with the costs of new white jerseys after the school ditch the script that the team had on the front of their whites. I’m assuming to stay in the good graces of the school and to get some kind of funding, the team had to change it. Rather than go out of pocket, the Go Fund Me got to about 75-80% of the goal when all was said and done, which help off-set a huge cost to the players.

At the semester break, the Terps are ranked #9 in the ACHA Southeast Division II standings with a 13-6-1 record. The team is currently on a three-game winning streak, while also winning nine of their last ten games heading into the break. In those nine wins, the Terps have outscored their opponents 53-19. The Terps will return to the ice January 19th at their home rink of the Laurel Ice Gardens to take on Rowan University.

So, get yourself a new jersey for your collection, support college club hockey, and show up to random pro games with an amazing jersey on your back. It’s a win-win-win in my book.

Olympic Hope Adds to Already Amazing Tournament at Spengler Cup

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One of my favorite tournaments of the holiday season is the Spengler Cup. I’ve stumped for this tournament many times, not just because Vaillant Arena is a stunning site for the eyes, but also due to it being a land of, “Oh, that’s where that guy went.” The 2017 event has even more appeal to it, as there will be another national team aside from Canada to be featured right before the Olympics this year.

First, a bit of a history. The tournament itself is an invitation-only tournament hosted by HC Davos and created by Dr. Carl Spengler to help promote German-speaking European hockey clubs back in 1923. It was a way for those who felt ostracized after World War I to have place to play and have a communal feeling. Two teams who are constant are obviously HC Davos, but also Team Canada– which is a group of Canadian players who play over in Europe and are released by their minor league or college clubs to play in this event. Canada has been given an invite since 1984; while the other teams are filled out by other national teams and European club teams.

With this installment of the Spengler Cup, Canada’s team will have a last rehearsal for players want to represent the nation in the 2018 Games in South Korea. While there are plenty of former NHL players who play in Europe on the roster, it also has three players from the AHL (Jeff Schultz, Cody Goloubef, and Christian Thomas), as well as four players from the NCAA (Brandon Hickey, Jake Evans, Jeremy Davies, and Dylan Sikura). With five players back from last years championship team (Mason Raymond, Nick Spaling, Maxim Noreau, Andrew Ebbett, and David MacIntrye); the Canadians should continue to be a favorite in this event.

However, Canada isn’t the only team who’s scouting their Olympic roster as Switzerland will be fielding a team ahead of the Olympics. Some names that NHL fans may know include Damian Brunner, Tobias Stephan, and Raphael Diaz; but start to learn about goalie Leonardo Genoni. Genoni has had a history with the Spengler Cup with HC Davos, but it’s been one of hot and cold spells in this week long tournament. With the Swiss paired against Canada, South Korea, and the Czech Republic; taking on Canada and the other participants in the Spengler could give them a gauge on what they would need in order to have success in Olympics. A notable omission is goalie Jonas Hiller, who played in the Karjala Cup in November, but is not on this roster.

HC Davos, Canada, and Switzerland will be joined by Dinamo Riga of Latvia and the KHL, Mountfield HK of Czech Republic, and finally HPK Hameenlinna of Finland. There are times where teams will loan out players for this event– which HC Davos is taking advantage of with getting Jeremy Morin from SC Bern, Tomi Sallinin from Kloten, and Samuel Lofquist from EHC Biel. For Dinamo Riga, the likes of Danny Kristo, Karl Stollery, and Nikolai Zherdev are on their KHL squad and will most likely be at this tournament. Former King and Panther Jaroslav Bednar captains the Mountfield team, while Hameenlinna boost a young squad of players including former Bruins prospect Mikko Lehtonen.

It’s a quick and fun tournament that doesn’t get enough play in the US, even if there’s a US team in it like was the case with the Rochester Americans a few years back. If you’re in Canada, you can catch the action on the TSN family of networks; but in the US– good luck finding a totally legal stream of the event.

Time to Right the Schedule, AHL

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With the announcement of the Colorado Eagles moving to the AHL, as well as the San Antonio Rampage announcing a multi-year affiliation deal with the St. Louis Blues, and barring any unforeseen circumstances with other teams around the league; the AHL team roster has been set for 2018-19 already– which is nice, but brings up some other questions, at least in my mind.

Of course, with Colorado being in there– the divisional alignment is going to be pretty straight forward. The seven teams west of Texas– Stockton, Bakersfield, San Jose, San Diego, Ontario, Tucson, and now Colorado– will mostly likely make up the Pacific Division. This will move the Texas Stars and Rampage to the Central Division, thus pushing Cleveland to the North Division. Simple enough. It also leaves some room for when/if Seattle gets a team and wants to put their affiliate in the Pacific Northwest with them.

The bigger question now is what to do with the schedule. With all seven teams on the equal footing, does the AHL finally pull the trigger on making those Pacific Division team play a full 76-game season or so they think that 68 will be smarter for all the teams, despite having their own division. In either situation, the idea of using percentage points as a deciding factor gets thrown out the window and really shouldn’t be the default playoff that always comes up on TheAHL.com.

My thought on this is that this is the perfect time to sell the 76-game schedule to the Pacific teams. Look, they had a nice run of playing eight less games, though it really hasn’t make much a different in the playoffs for them, but it’s time for the AHL to put their foot down and say, “If you want to play in our league now– it’s time to play by our rules and play the full 76-game slate.”

It’s an easy sell now. There’s seven teams in their division, they won’t have to make “big trips” to Texas to play and could find a way to still keep to themselves, but at the same time– actually be a part of the league in playing an actual full schedule for once. Hell, it’s almost paramount of the AHL to make this happen rather than keep letting them get away with the 68-game slate. If they keep doing that– who’s really in charge?? Why have these teams in the league, even with their full division within a reasonable travel destination, if they don’t play the same amount of games that the other 24 teams do.

As you know, this isn’t my first ranting piece about the AHL schedule, but I hope it will be my last. You can’t have a league that’s touting itself as the step-below The Show, if you have two different set of rules in terms of scheduling for the league. This is the time now to really show that the league is in charge and that eight more games against others in the league are going to be okay and the players will be able to get through the travel. If they want to make the show, they’ll have to deal with some travel here and there anyway– so why not get them used to it and have them earn their stripes (and their reward miles) rather then steal eight games away from there throughout the season.