American Hockey League President and CEO Dave Andrews took the podium Monday morning at PPL Center in Allentown for his annual State of the League address, covering a variety of topics about hockey’s top developmental league.
Compared with others he has given in recent seasons, Andrews described this State of the League address as “less hectic” with no major rule changes or revisions to the AHL landscape on the horizon. Two new franchises – one new to the league and one under new ownership – are having strong first seasons as the Tuscon Roadrunners are off to a fast start and the Springfield Thunderbirds have shown tremendous growth.
Past rule changes have led to more than a 20% drop in fighting majors this season, as well as a downturn in match penalties and suspensions due to supplemental discipline. “There has a been a significant impact on making the game a little bit safer and a little bit cleaner,” Andrews said. “I hope it continues through the second half.”
The AHL will have a bit of a different look for the 2017-18 season with new teams taking the ice in Belleville, Ontario and Laval, Quebec. With the Vegas Golden Knights joining the NHL next season as its 31st franchise, there is a potential that the AHL also raises its number of member clubs. Andrews commented the odds “are better than 50/50 that we will have 31 teams next year and probably certain that we’ll have a 31st team the following year.”
Whether the AHL is 30 or 31 teams strong for the upcoming season, there will be new division and conference alignments next year. Andrews also alluded to the unbalanced conferences and the chance that the Charlotte Checkers join the Eastern Conference, but the new layout has yet to determined. Details on the alignment for 2017-18 are expected to be announced at the Board of Governors meeting in May.
For those who wait with baited breath all summer long for the AHL schedule to be announced, an amendment was passed on Sunday by the Board of Governors that should please fans. While the league has traditionally had to wait for the announcement of the NBA schedule before releasing its own, the AHL will move up the release of its teams’ playing schedules from late August to July.
The State of the League address during All-Star Weekend is typically the time during which details for next year’s All-Star Game are revealed, but no such announcement came today. With the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics still up in the air, so are the location dates for the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic. As the league schedules its All-Star festivities to coincide with the NHL’s All-Star or Olympic break, Andrews expects an announcement once a decision is made on the NHL’s involvement with the Olympics.
The American Hockey League as a whole continues to thrive as attendance and revenue have held steady from last year and expected to trend upwards through the second half.
Other notes from the address:
- The Binghamton franchise will have a press conference tomorrow regarding their team. It was released earlier this season that the Ottawa Senators would be affiliating with the new AHL team in Belleville next season. It is expected that another NHL club will move its affiliation to Binghamton for 2017-18.