As leagues start to set their target dates for their own reboot, John Hoven of SiriusXM dropped a little tidbit about the AHL that kind of caught my eye and it wasn’t until a second reading that it struck me.
An opt-in/out deadline.
It’s not insane to think of this being a thing, especially since we’ve seen that traveling for sports hasn’t paid off the best dividends so far. However, the biggest thing is the chain reaction this could make overall for teams and their affiliates.
As it stands, about one-third of the AHL is independently owned from their NHL affiliate, so those would be the ones that would be hurt the most with no fans in the arena, which could mean they would be more apt to opt-out for the season rather than take a bigger financial loss by operating without any money to counteract it.
For an entire season, a bubble situation doesn’t seem very viable, as the logistics as it is for the playoffs is pushing the capacity of the ice makers– albeit summer is much different than winter for humidity and all of that. Still, the availability of a location and the stir-craziness that could come from that would most likely be detrimental to the players for an entire season.
There’s plenty of iron out in a short time as they have a week before a vote is put forth, if we are to believe this timeline is true. With the SPHL announcing their plans to restart, you have to think that the rest of the minor leagues will start to make moves– especially with the NHL putting their timeline out there and now the AHL kind of lining up with the same; the ECHL will probably be in that same boat. Should be interesting to see in the next coming weeks.
The SPHL is over. The ECHL is over. Given the CDC’s suggestion of two months being the earliest this dystopian, confined atmosphere can maybe move toward living normally again– we could probably see the AHL and possible NHL do the same thing.
For the lower minor leagues, it’s understandable with the uncertainty of the ever-changing guidelines in the face of this whole ordeal. Add that to players visas, travel of teams and players over the border, availability of arenas that they don’t own; it was a perfect storm for these leagues to get shuddered early.
ECHL players get their last paycheck today, which is on average $600 a payday. Players are obviously panicking for money like everyone else who has their places of business shut down or reduced hours. Teams are also going to have plenty of losses with home games being removed, thus lost revenues and all of that. It’s a bad time all around.
And in all honesty, I wouldn’t hate it if the NHL and AHL shut down for the year. Would it suck for no Cup to be awarded?? Absolutely. As a Caps fan, would it suck for Alex Ovechkin not getting 50 goals despite being so close?? Most definitely. But for the greater good and not to rush a season in a half in what amounts to a calendar year– losses should be cut and then move on from there as a people into the next season.
For the players and for the fans, it’s the best to end it now and not give false hope when there’s other things to be concerned with. It would give one less financial burden for fans to worry about, it wouldn’t rush the players back into an important game-state after a long layoff, and it would reset the clock with the Draft and then into free agency.
Like I’ve said prior, shit’s crazy right now. The hope and the hype is all over the place. Common sense fails all of us right now and while sports are a nice distraction from it all– the best way is to throw it all out and start anew in October. It’s not just the staying away from people portion, it’s the matter of money is going to be very tight and the last thing people need to worry about is paying for playoff tickets and the other items that come when you go to a game in an arena.
Step off the ledge, everyone; breathe, and let’s get back at ‘er sooner than later, but not too soon to set people back more.
One of the bigger stories that broke for this week in the NHL/AHL landscape was the note that the Vegas Golden Knights are looking to buy an AHL team in order to move them to the Orleans Arena in Vegas to get their prospects close. It would be in line with what other Western Conference teams have been doing. Currently, the Chicago Wolves are the Knights affiliate, which is quite the ways away from each other. And in reality, that’s probably the only reason why the Knights want to leave.
As an independent team, the Wolves are one of the most successful on and off the ice in the AHL. They want the player’s best and want to win at the box office as well, to which they have been successful despite the cluttered market in the Chicagoland area. However, this news of a chance doesn’t come as a shock to Wolves Chairman Don Levin, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, “The Chicago Wolves will be here next year, we just don’t know who we’ll be affiliated with. There’s no scenario at all the Wolves will be affiliated with Vegas. We knew that before. Our affiliation would be over at the end of the year.”
The issue that arises is the need to Vegas to get an independent team to sell to them. There are some that have contracts coming up like Hershey, Grand Rapids, and Milwaukee– but all of them are in good spaces right now and won’t sell because their markets are strong. Rockford has been brought up as a selling mate because they have dropped in their attendance over the last five years. We could definitely see the IceHogs move west before the puck drops next season.
Richmond has been endorsed by the ECHL to get a hockey team with a proposed arena popping up in the Navy Hill district. Richmond has Richmond was a long-standing member of the ECHL from 1990 until 2003 as the Renegades, with the UHL having the RiverDogs 2003 until 2006, and then the Renegades name popped up again, this time in the SPHL from 2006 until 2009.
All this, of course, hinges on getting an arena in the $1.5B project which would see many restaurant and shopping areas, akin to what many cities have done with stadiums and arenas in the past. The team also has an owner ready to go and with an understanding of the ECHL structure in Fred Festa– former owner of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
It would be great to see Richmond back in hockey, though in this landscape, especially in the ECHL with rivals in Norfolk and Wheeling already slotted in. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the project approved and then getting the money to get the team into the new arena.
A few weeks back, the push to bring the ECHL to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec seems to have hit a road block. In an interview with SB Nation’s Montreal Canadiens blog, Dean MacDonald– the lead in bringing an expansion team into Trois-Rivieres– made a point to say that there was a lot of miscommunication between many parties and it seemed that the Mayor of the city was more focused on getting the University team into the fold rather that the ECHL and cohabitation is something they didn’t want to do. Not to mention, they would need the Canadiens to be in the fold in order to make it work.
The last part is pretty easy, as the Habs don’t have an ECHL affiliate right now. That said, the government being very indecisive and kind of throwing the expansion group curveballs doesn’t show a lot of confidence that the city wants a team there. It would be a nice fit and go with the Montreal-Laval connection already, plus adding another Canadian team to the ECHL fold; though you can’t really force yourself into that spot if the city is unwilling to have you.
Not to mention, you have to wonder if the QMJHL will see all this and try to get back into the Trois-Rivieres fold since it seems like a hot ticket to be at. If that Major Junior money gets in there, then the ECHL bid may have a bigger hill to climb.
AHL: Ontario Reign (25-33-6-4, 7th in Pacific, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs) TEAM LINEAGE: The Reign were born out of the initial western swing, as the Kings moved the Manchester Monarchs to Ontario after 14 years. Prior to that, the Lowell Lock Monsters were at the helm, which came after the Springfield Falcons– the fourth time the Kings had an affiliate in Springfield with the Kings and Indians being the other teams. Two of the Kings longest affiliations intersected with the Phoenix Roadrunners and New Haven Nighthawks for a few seasons in the early ’90s. And I’d be foolish not to mention the Long Beach Ice Dogs for three years in the late ’90s. FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: Despite an injury that kept him out all but four games last season, Gabriel Vilardi will be on the trek from Ontario to LA, especially given the depth of the center spot in LA. Also, don’t be surprised if Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen swap spots back and forth backing up Jonathan Quick.
ECHL: Unfortunately, the Kings’ secondary affiliate in Manchester had to close down shop after this past season due to declining attendance after their move from the AHL to the ECHL. Other secondary includes the Ontario Reign, Reading Royals, Trenton Titans, Mississippi SeaWolves, and Richmond Renegades.
AHL: Springfield Thunderbirds (33-29-9-5, 7th in Atlantic, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs) TEAM LINEAGE: The Thunderbirds moved to Springfield from Portland, where the Panthers had a one-year affiliation with the Panthers. Prior to that, the Panthers were matches with the San Antonio Rampage for five years, after a six year stint with the Rochester Americans. The Louisville Panthers, Kentucky Thoroughblades, New Haven Beast, Carolina Monarchs, and the IHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones also served as primary sponsor of the Panthers. FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: One possible candidate could be a guy who’s coming over for his first North American pro season and that’s Aleksi Heponiemi. After a stellar WHL career with Swift Current, Heponiemi went to Finland to register almost a point-per-game in 50 games, while leading his team in assists with 30. Also look for Anthony Greco and Dryden Hunt to be on the shuttle up and down the east coast as both looked to build on their time with the Panthers from last season, while trying to fit into a tight roster.
ECHL: The Panthers haven’t had a secondary affiliate since 2015 when they left the Cincinnati Cyclones. They had a closer affiliate in the Florida Everblades for four seasons over five years (one year break in the middle), while the Texas Wildcatters, Augusta Lynx, again with Florida, and the Miami Matadors all had one-year stints as the secondary team for the Panthers. The Port Huron Border Cats of the UHL, the Tallahasse Tiger Sharks of the ECHL, the Detroit Falcons of the UHL, and the Birmingham Bulls of the ECHL were at the start of the Panthers franchise.
AHL: Bakersfield Condors (42-21-3-2, 1st in Pacific, lost in second round) TEAM LINEAGE: The Condors sprung through the ashes of the Oklahoma City Barons during the AHL exodus to the west coast. Prior to that, it was an odd time for the Oilers prospects, as they hit up stops with the Springfield Falcons, Iowa Stars, Hamilton Bulldogs, Edmonton and Toronto Roadrunners, and then back with Hamilton. Though they had the IHL’s Kansas City Blades for a season, they had a strong hold on the Maritimes in Canada with the Cape Breton Oilers, Nova Scotia Oilers, and Moncton Alpines from 1982 until 1996. FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: There’s some flux on the wings, which would leave things open of Kailer Yamamoto and Tyler Benson. Yamamoto is a work in progress and his season last year wasn’t the greatest– which gives Benson an edge, as he was just under a point-per-game player last season with 66 points in 68 games. Caleb Jones could be the best shot on the blue line to be a shuttle player, while centerman Cooper Marody put up 64 points in 58 games with the Condors in his rookie season.
ECHL: Wichita Thunder (29-31-9-3, 5th in Mountain, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs) TEAM LINEAGE: The Thunder got the Oilers affiliation after the Oilers left the Norfolk Admirals, the team that was the former ECHL Condors that the Oilers bought and moved to Virginia to make room for the AHL. The Stockton Thunder was prior to all three of those teams, with the Oilers also making stops with the Greenville Grrrowl, Columbus Cottonmouths, Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, New Orleans Brass, and the Winston-Salem/Wheeling Thunderbirds/Nailers. The IHL was the secondary affiliate for the Oilers from 1979 until 1991 with stops with the Dayton Gems, Milwaukee Admirals, Muskegon Lumberjacks, and Phoenix Roadrunners. NOTABLE GRADUATES: There hasn’t been many graduates from the Thunder…in fact, none that I can see that spent significant time in Wichita. However, former NHLers like Dana Tyrell and Theo Peckham have played in Wichita looking to get another shot at the big time; which didn’t appear to happen in either case.
AHL: Grand Rapids Griffins (38-27-7-4, 4th in Central, lost in first round) TEAM LINEAGE: The Griffins have been the Red Wings’ affiliate for 17 years now, which is the second longest in Red Wings history– the first being the Adirondack Red Wings from 1979 until 1999. Oddly enough, between that 1999-2002 time, the Red Wings shared affiliation with other teams in the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and Manitoba Moose. Prior to that– it was all over the place like the Kansas City Red Wings, Kansas City Blues, Tidewater Wings, Viriginia Wings, Baltimore Clippers, London (UK) Lions, San Diego Gulls, and Cleveland Barons to name a very few. FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: The Red Wings are very cautious with their prospects, but with a new GM in Steve Yzerman and a rebuild happening; maybe some of these guys will get moved up quicker. Filip Zadina could make the team out of camp, but if not– he will be the first call-up for any injury. Though he missed last season due to injury, Evgeny Svechnikov has some high upside to him, which may make him a desirable mark to shuttle to and from Detroit. The dark horse blue liner could be Vili Saarijarvi, who has taken a while to develop through the system and may get some looks this season.
ECHL: Toledo Walleye (40-23-6-3, 2nd in Central, lost in Kelly Cup final) TEAM LINEAGE: It’ll be the 10th season of affiliation for the Walleye and Red Wings, which the Red Wings third time in the Toledo market, as they had the Storm as a secondary affiliate from 1991 until 1999 and then in 2000 until 2007. There were also stops with the Louisiana IceGators, Jacksonville Bullets, Detroit Falcons, Flint Spirits, and Johnstown Wings to name some of their stops. NOTABLE GRADUATES: Among the graduates many would know, Luke Glendening was one of the bigger names to move onward, as is Petr Mrazek. Brian Lashoff and Tom McCollum also toiled through the system to get to the pros from Toledo, while players like TJ Hensick have used Toledo as a place to play at the sunset of their career.
AHL: Texas Stars (37-31-4-4, 6th in Central, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs) TEAM LINEAGE: It’s been ten years since the Dallas Stars moved their AHL team to the Lone Star State to be much closer to the parents. Before then, they went to Iowa for three seasons after a split affiliation with the Hamilton Bulldogs and Houston Aeros. Prior to that, the AHL edition of the Utah Grizzlies were the affiliate after they had their last year in the IHL. The Stars were all about the IHL, as Utah were preceded by Michigan K-Wings/Kalamazoo Wings. FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: The Stars are jam-packed on the blueline, which might give them plenty of flexibility for bringing guys up to show off for trade purposes. That means the sighting of Julius Honka or Gavin Bayreuther to see if they can hang with the big club or maybe show off enough to get dealt out of the system, though the former could be dealt due to the cap number game.
ECHL: Idaho Steelheads (41-25-4-2, 2nd in Mountain, lost in second round) TEAM LINEAGE: The Steelheads have been with the Stars since 2003 (minus the 2004-05 season) and only prior to that, the Dayton Bombers were the secondary affiliate from 1993 until 2000. During the Steelheads tenure, the Stars also went to the CHL for affiliation with the Tulsa Oilers and Allen Americans. NOTABLE GRADUATES: Some graduates include Richard Clune, BJ Crombeen, Justin Dowling, and Jay Beagle– who used his short time with the Steelheads to kick-start his championship run of the Kelly Cup, Calder Cup, and Stanley Cup.
AHL: Colorado Eagles (36-27-4-1, 4th in Pacific, lost in first round) TEAM LINEAGE: In their first year of the AHL, the Eagles will probably stick around as the primary affiliate for a while, especially since– you know– they’re in the same state as their parent club. Previous to the Eagles, the Avalanche had their top prospects with the San Antonio Rampage, Lake Erie Monsters, Albany River Rats, Lowell Lock Monsters, Hershey Bears, and the Cornwall Aces FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: With the number of signings and trades made, the Avs are deep as it is– that’s going to make it harder for someone like AJ Greer to crack the opening night roster, but will make him a candidate for the shuttle. Logan O’Connor will be a dark horse to be a shuttle player down the middle, but he could definitely use a lot more time in the AHL before getting too familiar with the Avalanche line-depth.
ECHL: Utah Grizzlies (37-26-4-5, 3rd in Mountain, lost in first round) TEAM LINEAGE: The Grizzlies were another first-year affiliate for the Avalanche, though it’s only because the Eagles moved up to the AHL after being the Avs’ secondary affiliation for two seasons. The Avs split between the ECHL and CHL when the latter was an option. Prior to the Eagles, the Fort Wayne Komets were the secondary affiliates, with the Denver Cutthroats, Tulsa Oilers, Charlotte Checkers, Johnstown Chiefs, Arizona Sundogs and San Diego Gulls played the role of starting point for future Avs. NOTABLE GRADUATES: A couple of graduates from the ECHL Grizzlies include Mikko Koskinen, Aaron Dell, Micheal Haley– all who started their careers there, while the likes of Brandon Yip and Richard Jackman ended their North American careers there.
AHL: Rockford IceHogs (35-31-4-6, 7th in Central, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs) TEAM LINEAGE: Since 2007, the IceHogs have been serving their in-state parent as their primary affiliate, though the Blackhawks had a tendancy to use other leagues over the AHL for their primary affiliate. Aside from Rockford and previous to them, the Norfolk Admirals; the Hawks used teams in the IHL like the Indianapolis Ice and Saginaw Hawks, as well as teams in the CHL– including the Dallas Black Hawks and St. Louis Braves as their primary affiliates from the 1960s until 2000. They had spot AHL affiliations with the Portland Pirates (1998-99), Nova Scotia Oilers (1985-87), Springfield Indians (1982-84) and New Brunswick Hawks (1978-82). Before that, the Buffalo Bisons were their AHL affiliate from 1954 until 1966. With being an “Original Six” team, the Hawks had many amateur teams in the beginning, as well as teams from the WHL and USHL when they were pro leagues. FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: While a change of scenery could be a good thing, Alex Nylander may be on the shuttle plenty with his new squad, as he did get better in his second AHL season opposed to his first. Nylander will be in a fight with Dylan Sikura, who himself is in a make-or-break season– as he was a shuttler last season during the Hawks rough season of injury. Collin Delia is the obviously choice depending upon Corey Crawford’s health.
ECHL: Indy Fuel (35-32-2-3, 5th in Central, Did Not Qualify for Playoffs) TEAM LINEAGE: While the Fuel have been the secondary affiliate for the Blackhawks for five seasons, the length of their secondary with the Toledo Walleye (2009-2014), the times before that were very one-and-done for the Hawks and secondary affiliates. The Fresno Falcons, Greenville Grrrowl, Pensacola Ice Pilots, Roanoke Express, Jackson Bandits, and Hampton Roads Admirals were their all their secondary affiliates from 1999 until 2009. NOTABLE GRADUATES: Delia has been the standout graduate of this young franchise, making his presence known with the Hawks last season, while the only other notable would be Justin Holl– who started his career in Indy before leaving the Hawks organization to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.