American Hockey League

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American Hockey League
Current season, competition or edition:
2014–15 AHL season
AmericanHockeyLeaguelogo.svg
American Hockey League logo
Sport Ice hockey
Founded 1936 (IHL/C-AHL Interlocking schedules); 1938 (IHL/C-AHL formally merged)
President David Andrews
No. of teams 30
Countries United States (27 teams)
Canada (3 teams)
Most recent champion(s) Texas Stars
Most titles Hershey Bears (11)[1]
TV partner(s) Canada (English): Sportsnet/Sportsnet One
Canada (French): TVA Sports
Europe: Premier Sports
United States: NHL Network
Official website www.theahl.com
The alternate logo of the AHL.

The American Hockey League (AHL) is a 30-team professional ice hockey league based in the United States and Canada that serves as the primary developmental circuit for the National Hockey League (NHL).[2] Since the 2010–11 season, every team in the league had an affiliation agreement with an NHL team; in the past, one or two NHL teams would not have an AHL affiliate and so assigned players to AHL teams affiliated with other NHL teams. Twenty-seven AHL teams are located in the United States and the remaining three are in Canada. The league offices are located in Springfield, Massachusetts, and its current president is David Andrews.

The annual playoff champion is awarded the Calder Cup, named for Frank Calder, the first President (1917–1943) of the NHL. The current champions are the Texas Stars.

Formation and growth[edit]

Predecessor leagues[edit]

The AHL traces its origins directly to two predecessor professional leagues: the Canadian-American Hockey League (the "Can-Am" League), founded in 1926, and the first International Hockey League, established in 1929. Although the Can-Am League never operated with more than six teams, after the 1935–36 season it reduced down to just four member clubs – Springfield, Philadelphia, Providence, and New Haven – for the first time in its history. At the same time, the then-rival International Hockey League lost half of its eight members after the 1935–36 season, also leaving it with just four member teams: Buffalo, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.

1936–38[edit]

With both leagues down to the bare minimum in membership, the governors of each recognized the need for action to assure their member clubs' long-term survival. Their solution was to play an interlocking schedule. Styled as the International-American Hockey League, the two older leagues' eight surviving clubs began joint play in November 1936 as a new two-division "circuit of mutual convenience" with the four Can-Am teams comprising the I-AHL East Division and the IHL quartet playing as the West Division. The IHL also contributed its former championship trophy, the F. G. "Teddy" Oke Trophy, which would go to the regular-season winners of the West Division in the new I-AHL until 1952 (the Oke Trophy is now awarded to the regular-season winners of the AHL's current seven-team East Division).

A little more than a month into that first season, the balance and symmetry of the new combined circuit suffered a setback when its membership unexpectedly fell to seven teams. The West's Buffalo Bisons were forced to cease operations on December 6, 1936, after playing just 11 games, because of what proved to be insurmountable financial problems and lack of access to a suitable arena; the Bisons' original arena, Peace Bridge Arena, had collapsed the previous season. The makeshift new I-AHL played out the rest of its first season (as well as all of the next) with just seven teams.

At the end of the 1936-37 season, a modified three-round playoff format was devised and a new championship trophy, the Calder Cup, was established. The Syracuse Stars defeated the Philadelphia Ramblers in the finals, three-games-to-one, to win the first-ever Calder Cup championship. The Calder Cup continues on today as the AHL's playoff championship trophy.

Formal consolidation of the I-AHL[edit]

"Hershey in Hockey League" (from The Philadelphia Record, 6-29-1938).jpg

After two seasons of interlocking play, the governors of the two leagues' seven active teams met in New York City on June 28, 1938, and agreed that it was time to formally consolidate. Maurice Podoloff of New Haven, the former head of the Can-Am League, was elected the I-AHL's first president. The former IHL president, John Chick of Windsor, Ontario, became vice-president in charge of officials.

The new I-AHL also added an eighth franchise at the 1938 meeting to fill the void in its membership left by the loss of Buffalo two years earlier with the admission of the then two-time defending EAHL champion Hershey Bears.[3] The Bears remain the only one of these eight original I-AHL/AHL franchises to have been represented in the league without interruption since the 1938–39 season. The newly merged circuit also increased its regular-season schedule for each team by six games from 48 to 54.

Contraction, resurrection, and expansion[edit]

After the 1939-40 season the I-AHL renamed itself the American Hockey League. It generally enjoyed both consistent success on the ice and relative financial stability over its first three decades of operation. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, the cost of doing business in professional ice hockey began to rise sharply with NHL expansion and relocation (a process which involved the placing of teams in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo, forcing long-time AHL clubs in those cities to fold) and especially the 1972 formation of the twelve-team World Hockey Association (WHA). With these events, the number of major-league teams competing for players rose from six to thirty in just seven years. Player salaries at all levels shot up dramatically with the increased demand and competition for their services.

To help compensate for this increased expense, many NHL clubs cut back on the number of players they kept under contract for development, and players under AHL contracts could now also demand much higher paychecks to remain with their clubs. As a result, within a period of just three years from 1974 to 1977, half of the AHL's teams folded, paring the league down to just six teams from twelve. The league seemingly bottomed out on the eve of the 1977–78 season with news that the Providence Reds – the last surviving uninterrupted franchise from 1936–37 – had decided to cease operations after 51 years in Rhode Island.

The AHL appeared in serious danger of folding altogether if this dangerous downward trend was not reversed. As these clouds appeared their darkest, however, two events in the fall of 1977 helped reverse the trend and started the league back on the path to the great health it enjoys today. The first of these was the decision of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers to return to the league as a team owner, and the second was the unexpected collapse of the North American Hockey League just weeks before the start of the 1977–78 season.

The Flyers' new AHL franchise became the immediately successful Maine Mariners, which brought the new AHL city of Portland, Maine both the regular-season and Calder Cup playoff titles in each of that club's first two seasons of operation. The folding of the NAHL, meanwhile, suddenly left two of its stronger teams, the Philadelphia Firebirds and Binghamton, New York-based Broome Dusters, without a league to play in. The owners of the Dusters solved their problem by buying the Reds franchise and moving it to Binghamton as the Binghamton Dusters, while the Firebirds crossed over to the AHL from the NAHL. The Dusters and Firebirds, together with the Hampton Gulls (who had joined the league from the Southern Hockey League), boosted the AHL to nine member clubs as the 1977–78 season opened. Hampton folded on February 10, 1978, but was replaced the next year by the New Brunswick Hawks. The league continued to grow steadily over the years, reaching 20 clubs by the 2000–01 season.

Absorption of the IHL[edit]

In 2001–02, the AHL's membership jumped dramatically to 27 teams, mostly by the absorption of teams in six cities – Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Salt Lake City (as Utah), Winnipeg (as Manitoba), and Grand Rapids – from the International Hockey League. The IHL had established itself as the second top-level minor league circuit in North America, but had folded in 2001 due to financial problems. The Utah Grizzlies suspended operations after the 2004–05 season (the franchise was sold in 2006 and returned to the ice in Cleveland in 2007 as the Lake Erie Monsters). The Chicago Wolves (2002, 2008), Houston Aeros (2003), Milwaukee Admirals (2004), and Grand Rapids Griffins (2013) have all won Calder Cup titles since joining the AHL from the IHL. Chicago and Milwaukee have also made multiple trips to the Calder Cup Finals, and Houston made their second Finals appearance in 2011. The Manitoba Moose moved to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011 and were renamed the St. John's IceCaps after the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg as the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. One oddity caused by the AHL's 2001 expansion is that the league now has two teams with the same nickname: the Milwaukee Admirals and the Norfolk Admirals. The latter team transferred to the league from the mid-level ECHL in 2000.

Teams[edit]

Current[edit]

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Timeline[edit]

Lake Erie Monsters Utah Grizzlies (1995–2005) St. John's IceCaps Manitoba Moose Milwaukee Admirals Manchester Monarchs Iowa Wild Houston Aeros (1994–2013) Grand Rapids Griffins Chicago Wolves Bridgeport Sound Tigers Norfolk Admirals Texas Stars Iowa Stars Louisville Panthers Albany Devils Lowell Devils Worcester Sharks Cleveland Barons (2001–06) Kentucky Thoroughblades Lehigh Valley Phantoms Adirondack Phantoms Philadelphia Phantoms Beast of New Haven Carolina Monarchs Rockford Ice Hogs Cincinnati Mighty Ducks Baltimore Bandits Springfield Falcons Syracuse Crunch Hamilton Canucks Charlotte Checkers (2010–) Albany River Rats Capital District Islanders Adirondack Flames Abbotsford Heat Quad City Flames Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights Saint John Flames Utica Devils Hamilton Bulldogs Cape Breton Oilers Nova Scotia Oilers Moncton Golden Flames Sherbrooke Jets Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Cornwall Aces Halifax Citadels Fredericton Express Portland Pirates Baltimore Skipjacks Erie Blades Toronto Marlies St. John's Maple Leafs Newmarket Saints St. Catharines Saints New Brunswick Hawks Syracuse Firebirds Philadelphia Firebirds (ice hockey) Providence Bruins Maine Mariners Hampton Gulls Syracuse Eagles Binghamton Senators Prince Edward Island Senators New Haven Nighthawks San Antonio Rampage Adirondack Red Wings Virginia Wings Cincinnati Swords Moncton Hawks Boston Braves (AHL) Oklahoma City Barons Edmonton Road Runners Toronto Roadrunners Quebec Citadelles Fredericton Canadiens Sherbrooke Canadiens Nova Scotia Voyageurs Montreal Voyageurs Baltimore Clippers Richmond Robins Quebec Aces Rochester Americans Philadelphia Rockets St. Louis Flyers Cincinnati Mohowks Washington Lions Indianapolis Capitals Hershey Bears Buffalo Bisons (AHL) Syracuse Stars Utica Comets Peoria Rivermen (AHL) Worcester IceCats Springfield Indians Syracuse Warriors Springfield Indians Hartford Wolf Pack Binghamton Rangers Providence Reds Pittsburgh Hornets Philadelphia Ramblers New Haven Eagles Jacksonville Barons Cleveland Barons (1937-1973) Buffalo Bisons (IHL)

All-time teams[edit]

AHL All-Star Game[edit]

The American Hockey League first held an All-Star Game in the 1941–42 season. The event was not played again until the 1954–55 season, and was then held annually until the 1959–60 season. In the 1994–95 season, the AHL revived the events again, and has been played every season since. The skills competition was first introduced for the 1995–96 season. The PlanetUSA team is made up of players born outside of Canada and the Canada team is made up of players born within Canada.

Date Arena City Winners Score Losers Score
February 12, 2014 Mile One Stadium St. John's, NL AHL All-Stars 7 Färjestad BK 2
January 28, 2013 Dunkin' Donuts Center Providence, Rhode Island West All-Stars 7 East All-Stars 6
January 30, 2012 Boardwalk Hall Atlantic City, New Jersey West All-Stars 8 East All-Stars 7 (SO)
January 31, 2011 Giant Center Hershey, Pennsylvania East All-Stars 11 West All-Stars 8
January 19, 2010 Cumberland County Civic Center Portland, Maine Canada 10 PlanetUSA 9 (SO)
January 26, 2009 DCU Center Worcester, Massachusetts PlanetUSA 14 Canada 11
January 28, 2008 Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena Binghamton, New York Canada 9 PlanetUSA 8 (SO)
January 29, 2007 Ricoh Coliseum Toronto, ON PlanetUSA 7 Canada 6
February 1, 2006 MTS Centre Winnipeg, MB Canada 9 PlanetUSA 4
February 14, 2005 Verizon Wireless Arena Manchester, New Hampshire PlanetUSA 5 Canada 4 (SO)
February 9, 2004 Van Andel Arena Grand Rapids, Michigan Canada 9 PlanetUSA 5
February 3, 2003 Cumberland County Civic Center Portland, Maine Canada 10 PlanetUSA 7
February 14, 2002 Mile One Stadium St. John's, NF Canada 13 PlanetUSA 11
January 15, 2001 First Union Arena at Casey Plaza Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Canada 11 PlanetUSA 10
January 17, 2000 Blue Cross Arena Rochester, New York Canada 8 PlanetUSA 3
January 25, 1999 First Union Center Philadelphia, Pennsylvania PlanetUSA 5 Canada 4 (OT/SO)
February 11, 1998 Onondaga War Memorial Syracuse, New York Canada 11 PlanetUSA 10
January 16, 1997 Harbour Station Saint John, NB World 3 Canada 2 (OT/SO)
January 16, 1996 Hersheypark Arena Hershey, Pennsylvania USA 6 Canada 5
January 17, 1995 Providence Civic Center Providence, Rhode Island Canada 6 USA 4
December 10, 1959 Eastern States Coliseum West Springfield, Massachusetts Springfield Indians 8 AHL All-Stars 3
January 15, 1959 Hershey Sports Arena Hershey, Pennsylvania Hershey Bears 5 AHL All-Stars 2
October 6, 1957 Rochester Community War Memorial Rochester, New York AHL All-Stars 5 Cleveland Barons 2
October 23, 1956 Rhode Island Auditorium Providence, Rhode Island Providence Reds 4 AHL All-Stars 0
January 10, 1956 Duquesne Gardens Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania AHL All-Stars 4 Pittsburgh Hornets 4
October 27, 1954 Hershey Sports Arena Hershey, Pennsylvania AHL All-Stars 7 Cleveland Barons 3
February 3, 1942 Cleveland Arena Cleveland, Ohio East All-Stars 5 West All-Stars 4

AHL Outdoor Games[edit]

Main article: AHL Outdoor Classic

Since the 2009–10 season, at least one team in the AHL has hosted an outdoor ice hockey game each year. The Syracuse Crunch was the first organization to put on an outdoor game in the AHL on February 20, 2010, building a rink at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York, and packing a record 21,508 fans in for the Mirabito Outdoor Classic against the Binghamton Senators. The contest, which was also televised to an international audience on NHL Network, was won by the Crunch, 2-1.

The Connecticut Whale hosted the Whale Bowl—the AHL's second outdoor game—on February 19, 2011, as part of a 10-day Whalers Hockey Fest at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. Attendance for Connecticut's game against the Providence Bruins was announced at 21,673, the largest in AHL history to that point. Providence won, 5-4, in a shootout.

On January 6, 2012, the largest crowd in AHL history saw the Adirondack Phantoms defeat the Hershey Bears, 4-3, in overtime before 45,653 fans at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the final event of the week-long activities associated with the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, which also included a game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers on Jan 2 and an alumni game between retired players (including eight honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame) of those two clubs on December 31, 2011. The contest was the third outdoor game in AHL history and it more than doubled the league's previous single-game attendance mark.

On January 21, 2012, the Steeltown Showdown between Ontario rivals the Toronto Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs was held at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ont., with the Marlies winning 7-2 in front of 20,565 fans, the largest crowd ever for an AHL game in Canada. The AHL game was preceded the previous night by a game between Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens alumni.

Two outdoor games were announced for the 2012-13 AHL season, but a meeting between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park in Detroit as part of the festivities surrounding the NHL Winter Classic was not held because of the cancellation of the NHL Winter Classic. On January 20, 2013, the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins met outdoors at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. The Penguins earned a 2-1 overtime victory in front of 17,311 fans.

The Rochester Americans hosted an outdoor game in 2013-14, the Frozen Frontier, which was held at Frontier Field in Rochester on December 13, 2013. The Americans took a 5-4 decision in a shootout against the Lake Erie Monsters before a standing-room crowd of 11,015 fans. A year after their originally scheduled date, the Griffins and Marlies played at Comerica Park on December 30, 2013, and Toronto prevailed in a shootout, 4-3, becoming the first AHL team ever with two outdoor wins. Attendance in Detroit was 20,337.

An AHL record crowd of 45,653 watched the Adirondack Phantoms defeat the Hershey Bears, 4-3 in OT, at the 2012 AHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

AHL Hall of Fame[edit]

The formation of an American Hockey League Hall of Fame was announced by the league on December 15, 2005, created to recognize, honor and celebrate individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions specifically in the AHL.[6]

On January 5, 2006, the league announced that Johnny Bower, Jack Butterfield, Jody Gage, Fred Glover, Willie Marshall, Frank Mathers and Eddie Shore had been selected as the inaugural class of inductees.[7] They were formally inducted in a ceremony in Winnipeg, Manitoba on February 1, 2006.

Each year, a new class of inductees is enshrined during the AHL's All-Star Classic. Following the 2014 ceremony, the AHL Hall of Fame's membership stands at 38.[8]

Trophies and awards[edit]

The following is a list of awards of the American Hockey League.

Individual awards[edit]

Team awards[edit]

Trophy predates American Hockey League, established 1926–27 in the Canadian Professional Hockey League.

Other awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Scott, Jon C. (2006). Hockey Night in Dixie: Minor Pro Hockey in the American South. Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd. pp. 137–201. ISBN 1-894974-21-2. 

External links[edit]