AHL – Always re-aligning
The American Hockey League is a place of change on a season by season basis.
From testing new rules and regulations to be possibly used in NHL, to players moving up, down and around.
Heading into the 2013/2014 season we have yet more league re-alignment, saying goodbye to some old friends and welcoming some new teams to the AHL.
In the Eastern Conference there is only one change to note and that is a name change. Three years after re-branding themselves as the Connecticut Whale, the New York Rangers affiliate will be known once more as the Hartford Wolf Pack, which had been their name since 1997.
It’s the Western Conference where we have significant changes and re-alignment.
The South Division experiment didn’t last long and we are back to the old West Division.
The Abbotsford Heat, formerly in the North will make the move across to the West. The move will be welcomed by their former divisional opponents (Hamilton, Lake Erie, Rochester and Toronto) who will be glad not to have travel so far west on a regular occurrence. Abbotsford’s place in the North will be taken by the Utica Comets who are the new affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.
Having bought out the Peoria franchise, Abbotsford toyed with the idea of keeping the Rivermen but went ahead and moved the team to Utica, NY (east of Syracuse for those looking on a map). They will be known as the Utica Comets, play home games at the Utica Memorial Auditorium and be coached by former Portland Winterhawks assistant general manager and assistant coach Travis Green.
The Peoria Rivermen spent eight years contesting in the AHL and on May 15th it was confirmed there would be still be a team in Peoria, who would compete in the SPHL.
The Chicago Wolves who were Vancouver’s affiliate will now be linked to the St. Louis Blues.
Something of a renegade franchise in the AHL, it’ll be interesting to see the Blues relationship with the Wolves develops this season and beyond. As recently as yesterday the Chicago announced they would be re-hiring the Wolves all-time winningest head coach John Anderson, who coached the team to two Calder Cup victories in 2002 and 2008.
We lose another friend in the Houston Aeros who had something of a fractious battle with their NBA landlords during their tenure. A failure to come to an agreement on a lease and nowhere else in the city a viable option meant an end to 19 years of hockey in Houston.
The Minnesota Wild decided to bring the franchise closer to home and the Iowa Wild will be their new affiliate.
We now have to wait a month for the schedule to be released but I hope another change is that as a Marlies fan we get to see some different opposition next season. Playing Hamilton and Rochester so regularly every year is becoming a little boring.