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 AHL did what they should have done a while ago with the rest of the minor leagues and closed up shop on the 2019-20 season and playoffs. What along wild ride it was and it’ll be remembered throughout the annals of time. And with it, we’ve got some loose ends to tie up and away we go.
Happy Trails, David Andrews: Since 1994, Andrews has been the face of the AHL. In that times, he’s made the AHL the only AAA-level minor hockey league, he’s seen the absorption of the remaining successful IHL teams, he’s help the league move out west to get a reach into the pacific time zone, on top of getting 31 teams to match the 31 NHL franchises. Attendances has been a big boom under Andrews thanks to more markets, but also the media presence with TV in North America has been a big marker left by Andrews. His successor, Scott Howson, will have big shoes to fill– but he’s left with a great start from Andrews’ legacy.
We Hardly Knew Ye, San Antonio Rampage: The team that was partial owned by the NBA’s Spurs has been sold and will move to Henderson, Nevada to become the Golden Knights affiliate. The Rampage only had four playoff appearances with only one going past the first round, but they were a successful franchise off the ice with over 6,000-people in average attendance; a huge thing to do for a minor league team in a bigger market with plenty to do around it. Especially for not getting to the playoffs frequently, it’s a huge feat. Some notable players came out of the Rampage system like Rocco Grimaldi, Gregory Campbell, David Schlemko, and Keith Yandle.
Maryland’s Scoring Champ: Despite it ending early, Potomac, Maryland’s Sam Anas locked up the scoring title with 70 points (20g, 50a) in 63 games for the Iowa Wild. Having the chance to talk to Anas before the season, he seemed hell-bent on making the most of his off-season and getting more consistent with his play. Being an unrestricted free agent, Anas should have plenty of options come his way. The question is whether or not he wants to keep going with the Wild organization or go to a place that might give him a better chance to play at the NHL level.
Low-Key Solid Keeping: Three goalies in the AHL had sub-2.00 GAAs– Dan Vladar (Providence), Igor Shesterkin (Hartford), and Connor Ingram (Milwaukee)– while Kaapo Kahkonen in Iowa lead the league in wins with 25. The biggest thing is whether these guys will make the jump. We’ve seen Shesterkin move up to the Rangers, but the other three could be a part of the numbers game. Kahkonen is behind Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock; Ingram behind Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros; and Vladar behind Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. While Kahkonen and Vladar are RFAs, odds are their teams will try to keep them for an insurance policy moving forward and place them in their future plans…as they should.
Oh Admiral, My Admiral: It’s a shame the Milwaukee Admirals couldn’t finish out their season. Leading the league with 41 wins and 90 points, the Admirals could have had a record season with 15 games remaining. They have posted 49-win seasons twice in franchise history, but the way they had been paying, 50 wins was well within reach, as was the 108-point plateau they had in 2005-06 and was their AHL franchise best. Of course, the playoffs seemed to be the great equalizer, as the Admirals haven’t made it out of the first round since 2011, but with this determined squad– anything could have happened.
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.
I’ll start this off by saying the first I heard of this was from Justin Cohn of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. He kind of laid the ground work of it all for me and then the ball rolled from there. But if you decided to step away from Twitter and hockey for the summer, you’ve missed the fun of the Colorado Eagles, the ECHL, and the Kelly Cup.
Let this be a lesson to the ECHL and others that there’s a reason that Phil Pritchard is the Keeper of the Cup and has eyes on it at all times…ALL TIMES. Are the Eagles being asses about it?? Sure, but at the same time– what league just gives their prized possession to a team, especially one that is moving up next year– and doesn’t have a chaperone with it during the time with the team??
If nothing else, it has created a nice little buzz for the league during their Final, while also allowing the ability to have this made into some little documentary about what happened by ESPN.
Meanwhile, even though they are a couple years away, the Seattle Your-Name-Heres are looking at affiliation locations for their AHL squad. It seems to have come down to a couple of interesting choices among the finalist.
First, you have Boise, Idaho which currently houses the ECHL’s Boise Steelheads. The Steelheads have been a successful WCHL and ECHL team, playing to a nearly sold-out house on average each year. The question is when it comes to the ownership group thinks that the AHL cost structure will work better for them and if the AHL in general will be a good move for them and their fan base. You could argue that a move up is always a good choice for the legacy of the team– but there’s times it just doesn’t work out; hello Utah Grizzlies.
The second option is a wild one and it’s Palm Springs, California. It’s wild because there’s not many places to play right now unless the city build a new venue. There’s been talk of an indoor venue via the Coachella Sports and Entertainment Stadium Authority that could open by 2021, but there hasn’t been much movement there. Plus, it could be a harder sell for an arena that has little to no background in hockey. While it would be cool and I’m sure my co-host of “In the Draft” Wilson would be able to get to more hockey games– I don’t know if it’ll be the best fit when trying to make a successful team.
Given the options, Boise would probably be my choice because you’ve got a built in fan base there, though you’d be cutting off a rather successful affiliation with the Dallas Stars. Not only that, but the ECHL would have to really wonder what to do with the Utah Grizzlies being way the hell and gone from every other competition.
There’s helping out your arena’s title sponsor and then there’s what the Florida Everblades are doing this season. With the Germain Arena newly renamed Hertz Arena, the Everblades have made the ice a yellow tint for the season and most likely beyond that.
Yet, the life of me, this is the first time I believe a team has done this for a full season. Granted, I’m sure teams have done it and if they have pop into the comment section to let me hear about it. The upside is that it’s not a bright yellow like the Predators uniforms. The yellow that is in the pictures just looks like the Hertz Arena needs a new lighting rig for the ice. When you look at the Hertz logo— it could have been much worse.
It’s not like the Everblades need an advantage at home, though. From 2014-15 until last year, the Everblades have registered 25, 23, 25, and 27 wins at the Hertz Arena, ranking among the top home records in the ECHL during that time– tied for second last year with Colorado just one win behind Toledo.
This team could be different for the Everblades, as Michael Kirkpatrick, Mitchell Heard, and Callum Booth are gone; but adding Justin Auger, Kyle Platzer, and Jamie Phillips may need some time to adjust, but will probably fill-in just nicely as they get things going throughout the season.
There are not rave reviews after the start of the season. As I mentioned, many fans complained that the ice looked like it was dimly lit, but the players have a different take on it all, as Joe Cox told the Naples Daily News: “It definitely made the ice a little bit slushier, so the puck was definitely bouncing a little bit more, moving slow.”
Overall, this is good synergy for the Everblades and Hertz. On top of the ice, the warm-up jerseys for the Everblades is bright yellow with Hertz under the collar. This is a team that’s making sure they’re taking care of their sponsors and keeping them happy by getting their name out there. Every dollar counts in the minor leagues and if you have to go to extremes like tinting the ice yellow….well, it’ll at least give it that old-time hockey feel out there.
The State is Maryland….always has been, always will be.
In any case, it’s a new NHL season today since contracts for players only go to July 1st, really screwing over the broadcasters who have to cover this event in Canada on their Independence Day– but that’s the NHL for you. However, with a new year– probably time to give some kind of update about what will happen this upcoming season with regards to blogging, podcasting, and the like. New year, new me, right??
Okay, so I took some kind of break because there’s not much to write about and there’s only so much John Tavares content people can bear. It’s been a fun time with the Capitals playoff run, but it won’t all be about the Caps and Maryland Black Bears– it’ll be a very heavy influence; but as the season goes on, I’ll get back to all the Tepid Takes and other “feature-esque” work that I’ve done in the past. It may be a little slow in the summer months (as it always is), but it’ll pick up from there I hope.
There’s a possibility I’ll do some minor league stories, but to be honest– I fell out of love with minor league hockey. It was something to try and reinvent myself for a bit and it worked for a while. Then things changed and I lost the passion for it. Maybe the bug will come back, but I really don’t think it’d be the same as it was during the FOHS Farm Report/The Sin Bin time. Interests changes, things happens, and you have to move on from something you’ve lost interest in if it’s completely a by-the-numbers role you’re playing.
There’s an off chance that there could be more NASCAR coverage, so if you’re into that– awesome; if not– that’s cool, too, but don’t get annoyed if it does happen. I mean, I do co-host a NASCAR podcast so….
There’s not going to be major changes in the substance of the podcasts– let that be known. It’s just a matter for us as a whole to be better with the promoting and things like that. Expect Face Off Hockey Show and The Soderstrom Bubble to be more active promoting things overall. If we want to leave any kind of mark where we can’t be denied about our participation in big NHL events, this is the way to do it. We will hope that you help in that process for promoting stuff you like about our Media Faction. Even if it is talking about our Patreon to others to help offset costs and things like that for the show.
That said, there could be a new Untitled Podcast coming your way from the FOHSMF– that just depends on time, effort, and actually doing it. Stay tuned around early September for a decision on that.
Aside from the whole “try to eat better and workout more” and other usually January 1st resolutions….there’s a project I’ve been collecting things for. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, but just keep putting off and doubting myself in terms of what the response would be from it. It’s really just a matter of actually doing it– as it goes with most projects– so I’m going to try and be better with actually making that come to life.
And be a little more present in life and actually thriving in the moment. Yeah, it’s zen BS, but it’s my zen BS.
…and that’s what’s up. It’s the update you didn’t know you wanted and probably still don’t care much for. Such as life and it’s an outlook on what you can expect from me this summer and moving forward.
While it wasn’t much of a secret, the St. John’s ECHL team made it official on Tuesday, as they will be named the Growlers as they enter into the 2018-19 season. Hockey will be back at The Rock with presumably the Toronto Maple Leafs as the primary affiliate– though nothing official on that has been brought forward.
The logo, as you can see, is an angry Newfoundland dog. That seems a bit oxymoronic given the loving nature of these creatures. However, there is a tie-in to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, as the logo was inspired by the mascot for the RNR in World War I, Sable Chief. Given the historically nature behind it, I feel bad for saying it looks a little like Wilford Brimley, but not bad enough to stop making that comparison.
As the second Canadian team in the league and third all-time, the Growlers are going to have a lot to manage, especially with being the furthest team east by over 1,200 miles. When Scott Wheeler did his piece about the Brampton Beast’s travels (PAYWALL BLOCK), you can only imagine how hellish the Growlers’ road trips are going to be. Also, after years of being in the AHL– how will the fan base receive the team. Will they be happy enough just to have a hockey team there to support it or will they feel like they could have gotten a QMJHL team and resent the team?? Time will tell, but I believe the former will be a lot more of a result than the latter.
Puck drops October 12th for the Growlers, as they play the Eastern Conference champions (and waiting for the Kelly Cup to start) Florida Everblades at Mile One Centre.
So, some stuff happened on Tuesday that changed the face of the ECHL. It was the welcoming of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador to the fold, while also saying goodbye to one of the most notable minor league franchises in the past couple decades in Quad City.
I’ll address the latter first in saying that while it’s not great for the fans, but it’s better to do it this way than to actually keep struggling monetarily and missing out on players that could make the team better. Losing almost a million dollars a season, owner Jordan Melville reached a breaking point– which was partly personally, as well according to Bobby Metcalf of the Quad City Times. Now, the TaxSlayer Center is saying they’d like the area to have hockey and have looked into some options. Obviously, the proximity of Peoria would make the SPHL an interesting choice for Quad City, but only time will tell if the fans would take a lower level of hockey to their area. It’ll be a helluva thing to lose the Mallards– who had success on the UHL, CHL, and onto the ECHL levels, but hockey is a business when all is said and done. This was strictly business.
As far as the St. John’s thing goes…I don’t understand it. Sure, it’s a hockey mad area that was left with nothing with the St. John’s IceCaps left for Laval after last season. But for a team to be almost 1,300 miles from their closest rival is a strain on the pocketbooks for sure. Plus, despite the quality of hockey being better than it has ever been– maybe some people won’t be as hyped up about AA hockey coming to town in a city that has success in the AHL. The QMJHL didn’t do well after the St. John’s Maple Leafs left and only last three seasons. I’m uneasy for the lower level of hockey playing in St. John’s.
That said, a second Canadian team can only help the ECHL and maybe the fans in St. John’s rallying behind it could make it a bigger success than many people could believe– myself included. The big issues will be if owner Dean MacDonald and executive Glenn Stanford will be able to deal with all the things to do in order to bring up a team in time for this October. It may seem like a long time away, but it’ll happen sooner than expected. Unlike Portland, who had over a year to make their team a reality, St. John’s is very much under the gun.
It’ll be an interesting look for the ECHL, which is really moving towards a very Northeastern field with the addition of St. John’s and the removal of Quad City and Colorado (moving to the AHL) after this season.
Did you know that there as an international friendly that happened on Tuesday in Ontario?? More likely not, as there wasn’t much pomp and circumstance on the grand scheme of things, but the Ontario Reign took on Eisbaren Berlin on Tuesday, with Ontario cruising to a 6-3 win in front of over 8,700 fans– according to the Ontario Reign.
Looking at the highlights from their Twitter, the Berlin fans who were in attendance really made it for a European feel of chanting and constant energy throughout the game. However, it didn’t seem to get much of a ground swell outside of the Ontario and Berlin community. Hell, this is the first time since 2014 when Farjestad took on the AHL All-Stars and then the Toronto Marlies that international teams took on North American teams during the regular season– as far as I know, that is.
There’s something to be said about the idea of international teams coming to North America to play against AHL teams, something more to be said when it has to deal with the AHL squads beating those international teams. Sure, the teams coming over may not bring their best line-up, especially since those teams are also in season. However– wouldn’t it be something to see more of these international friendlies and actually have them promoted by outside media sources in order to garner a little more appeal?? Of course it would, we all love hockey and getting to know more teams outside of the North American bubble would be a nice change of pace for some people.
When it comes to something like this, there’s two ways to go about it. First, get more teams active in forming a sister cities approach to international teams. Have each AHL or ECHL team adopt a European team and keep track that way. While it would be much harder to get the ECHL team to agree to it since they often have players defect to Europe to play, the idea could be there for the AHL by the parent organizations to almost compare ideas of coaching and playing styles and all that fun crap. It may be a hard-sell, but something that could be done. Ontario and Berlin came together if only because The Anschutz Group owns both teams.
The second way to go about it is to find a way to have more international tournaments for the minor league teams to participate in. While the Spengler Cup is a tournament that once in a blue moon invites AHL teams to their party (mainly the Rochester Americans), there needs to be more ideas.
One could be the idea of putting the Calder Cup champions in the Champions Hockey League. Yes, it could create havoc on scheduling, but to have a North American representation would be a big boost for the North American game and get people more invested in the European side of things. But, like I said, the schedule in Europe allows a lot more leeway for the teams to play in their country league and the Champions’ league– so many North American leagues would be pretty hard pressed to have involvement, but at the same time– one can dream about it.
There’s untapped potential when it comes to having European teams come over to North America more frequently and vice versa. The hardest point is to actually find a way to make it happen logistically and not just force down people’s throat like an outdoor game we’ve seen time and time again. You need to have it frequent enough to make people want to see it, but infrequent enough that you don’t over-saturate the marketplace.
Sadly, hockey marketing teams everywhere have yet to figure out that balance. So it goes. The dream is alive, but sleep hard before it becomes a reality.
-It’s taken the Grand Rapids Griffins a while to get going, but with points in eight of their last ten games– they’ve regained their championship form. A lot of that success is due in part to the play of Matt Puempel, who’s in the midst of a nine-game point-streak (6g 7a), while having 40 points in 35 games with the Griffins and putting Puempel fourth in the AHL in scoring. This season is looking to be Puempel’s best in the AHL. With 43 points (19g, 24a) already this season, Puempel is only five points away from tying his AHL high, which he set in his rookie season of 2013-14 with the Binghamton Senators.
-When it comes to Thatcher Demko, it’s a matter of when he’ll get the full-time call-up to the Vancouver Canucks. His play this season has been stellar (17-7-5, 2.27 GAA, .929 Sv%) and will give the Canucks an interesting move late in their season– whether to call him up to get some NHL playing time, as he’ll luckily move into that role next season– or will they allow him to stay with Utica for the rest of the season and get a taste of a playoff run??
-Since the turning of the calendar, Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman has turned on his game big time with 11g, 12a in 14 games in 2018. The Monarchs forward has been on quite the roll with multi-point games in six of his last season, which has quietly put him in second spot for league leaders in points (52) and second in the league in goals (26). Not bad for a guy getting back into the North American game full-time after traveling around Europe from 2011 until towards the end of the 2016-17 season.
-There might be a chip in Joe Cannata’s shoulder because his play right now is really telling the Colorado Avalanche he wants to be promoted. The minor-league vet is 16-2-1 with a 2.13 GAA and .934 Sv%, which puts him 2nd and 1st respectively in the league. After years of being in the AHL– whether it being the veteran back-up or the stop-gap veteran– he’s in the ECHL full-time for the first time since 2014-15. With a championship team in front of him, he could be marking his way for when the Eagles move up to the AHL next season.
-While Jake Hauswirth has had a great season– it’s going to be hard-pressed for him to go ahead and win the MVP on a non-playoff team. For me, Berkley Scott could be the front-runner, especially with the month he just had in January (9g, 7a)–which earned him Player of the Month honors. Tomas Shall should also get some kind of recognition for the year he’s had with Evansville thus far with a 14-2-2 record, while ranking top-five in GAA and save percentage.