AHL: Andrews praises new Colorado franchise

By Tyler Piccotti, Staff Writer – The Times Tribune / Published: January 30, 2018

VERONA, N.Y. — During his annual state of the league address Monday at the Turning Stone Resort, AHL president and CEO David Andrews gushed about the addition of the Colorado Eagles ECHL franchise for next season.

“It’s a wonderful facility there,” Andrews said. “They’re basically pretty much sold out every game now.”

Now comes the task of figuring out where the other teams fit in for competitive purposes.

Andrews said the league will undergo realignment for the 2018-19 season, when the number of teams will reach 31. Colorado will be added to the Pacific Division and partner with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche based on geographics. However, a nine-team division is something the league doesn’t want, and it would change the competitive balance between the Eastern and Western conferences.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to look at where our cities are and figure out what we might be doing,” Andrews said, adding the realignment process will take place in May. “I’ll leave it to your conjecture as to what we might be doing.”

Two of the obvious candidates to move from the Pacific would be the San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars.

While Colorado is a welcome addition, it is also a necessary one to match each NHL organization with a feeder team. This season, the Chicago Wolves are sharing players from both the Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues; the latter was left without a true affiliate

The Wolves and Golden Knights will have a full affiliation next season, as will the San Antonio Rampage and St. Louis.

Andrews added it’s part of the greater NHL trend, which is to have each AHL team as close as possible for organizations to monitor young prospects on a daily basis.

One thing that won’t change is the length of the league’s schedule, which consists of 68 games for the six California teams and 76 for everyone else. Andrews said three-fourths of teams would need to be in some kind of agreement to settle at a flat number for all 31 squads, but that doesn’t appear close to happening.

“It’s an unfulfilled objective,” Andrews said. “It’s a challenge. There are a number of teams in our league that like where we are at 76. There are a number who would prefer to be at 72 and there are some teams in the west that would like to be higher, but we’re kind of fractured.”

Among the other topics Andrews discussed:

■ There is no host city in place for next year’s All-Star Classic, but three cities are in discussions.

That doesn’t mean Andrews doesn’t have a few ideal destinations in mind for future editions.

“When we moved to California, one of the conditions of the huge transaction was that we had to let them host an all-star game,” he said, before sarcastically banging the side of the podium. “Hello? We’re all waiting to go there. San Diego, Ontario, anywhere? San Jose? Step up, and I think you can get one.”

■ League attendance has risen from last season, and same-store sales (which include the 28 teams that were present last season) are up between 3 and 4 percent. The addition of Laval and Belleville bumps that up to

8 percent total.

■ The league’s collective bargaining agreement expires in September 2019, and Andrews said the groundwork for a new deal will begin to take shape this summer. He said the relationship with the players association is strong, and he doesn’t expect any type of significant impasse.

“The last time we really had difficulties was when I started, which was 24 years ago,” Andrews said. “We’ve shown our players that we respect them and respect our league.”

■ There has been a further reduction in fighting majors this season, and the league is committed to having two referees for all games in 2018-19.

 

*Article courtesy of The Times Tribune

149 Penn Ave. Scranton, PA 18503

1-800-228-4637

Contact the writer:

tpiccotti@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2089;

@CVPiccotti on Twitter