SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The road to the Calder Cup begins tonight as the American Hockey League prepares to drop the puck on its 84th season with eight games on the Friday schedule.
The AHL once again has 31 active franchises in 2019-20, serving as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League clubs. There are no changes in affiliations or divisional alignment from last year.
The top four teams in each of the AHL’s four divisions will qualify for the 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs when the 1,150-game regular season ends on Saturday, Apr. 11.
View AHL Franchise Map in a larger map
During the 2018-19 season, 87.7 percent of all NHL players were graduates of the American Hockey League. Twenty-three AHL alumni led their NHL teams in rookie scoring last year, and 29 former AHL goaltenders paced their NHL team in victories.
There were 242 former first- and second-round NHL draft picks who skated in the AHL last season, including standouts like Erik Brannstrom, Tyler Benson, Jake Bean, Martin Kaut, Cal Foote and Alex Nedeljkovic. There were also 358 players who saw action in both the AHL and the NHL last season alone, a list that includes St. Louis’s Jordan Binnington, Ottawa’s Drake Batherson, Vegas’s Brandon Pirri and Philadelphia’s Carter Hart.
As the 2019-20 National Hockey League season began on Wednesday, there were 622 AHL graduates on the opening-night rosters of the NHL’s 31 clubs, and 23 NHL teams are being led by former AHL head coaches, among them reigning Stanley Cup champion Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues and new Anaheim Ducks bench boss Dallas Eakins, who led the San Diego Gulls to the AHL’s conference finals last spring.
The AHL’s Board of Governors approved some new rules and updated language that will take effect with the 2019-20 season:
• Rule 9.6 (“Helmets”) has been updated to state that a player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play shall be assessed a minor penalty if he does not exit the playing surface, or retrieve and replace his helmet properly on his head, within a reasonable period of time. Additionally, a player who intentionally removes an opponent’s helmet during play shall be assessed a minor penalty for roughing.
• Rule 60.3 (“High-sticking”) defines the criteria for a double-minor as “when a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders and makes contact with his opponent’s neck, face or head so that injury results, in the manner of drawing blood or otherwise.”
• Rule 63.6 (“Delaying the game”) now states that “if the goal post is deliberately displaced by a goalkeeper during the course of a breakaway, a goal will be awarded to the non-offending team.”
• Rule 63.7 (“Delaying the game”) prohibits a team from making a line change after a stoppage in play if it is guilty of:
– a defending player unintentionally dislodging the net, or
– a goaltender freezing a puck that has been shot from beyond the center red line
For both of these situations, for the ensuing faceoff in the defending zone, the attacking team will have the choice of which end-zone dot the faceoff will take place.
• Rule 82.2 (“Icing”) states that following an icing violation, the attacking team will have the choice of which end-zone dot the faceoff will take place.
• Rule 86.5 (“Puck Out of Bounds”) states that if the puck goes out of play or becomes unplayable, the faceoff will take place in the zone from which the puck was shot or frozen.
• The league’s tiebreaking procedure has been updated for 2019-20, with “regulation wins” now prioritized ahead of “ROW” in the event of a tie in the standings. In the event of a tie in regular-season points percentage, standings will be determined as follows:
o Regulation wins
o Regulation plus overtime wins (ROW)
o Total wins
o Head-to-head points
o Goal differential
o Head-to-head goal differential
o In-conference record
The entire AHL Rule Book is available for viewing at theahl.com/rules.
The 2018-19 season drew the second-highest total attendance in the AHL’s 83-year history, with more than 7.1 million fans attending games across North America between the regular season and the Calder Cup Playoffs. Eight teams saw average attendances of more than 7,700 fans per game in the regular season, with the San Diego Gulls leading the league for the second consecutive season (9,021).
The Hershey Bears drew 8,906 fans per game to Giant Center, finishing in the top three in the league for the 13th year in a row, and the Cleveland Monsters averaged 8,900 fans per game, their eighth straight top-five finish. Meanwhile, the Utica Comets extended their sellout streak at the historic Adirondack Bank Center to 154 consecutive regular-season games and counting – a new all-time AHL record.
Five AHL head coaching vacancies were filled during the summer of 2019. After winning a Calder Cup championship with Charlotte in 2019, Mike Vellucci is the new head coach and general manager of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Vellucci’s former assistant Ryan Warsofsky takes over the Checkers bench, and Kris Knoblauch is the new head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack after two seasons as an assistant with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.
Kevin Dineen, a Stanley Cup winner as an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, brings 266 wins as an AHL head coach to the San Diego Gulls bench, and Mike Eaves joins the Cleveland Monsters with 34 years of coaching experience on his resume, including a national championship at the University of Wisconsin in 2006.
Additionally, Scott Gordon returns to Lehigh Valley after finishing the 2018-19 season as interim head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. Gordon ranks ninth in AHL history with 365 career coaching victories.
For the first time ever, the AHL’s All-Stars will shine out west when the Ontario Reign host the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport.
The AHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Sunday, January 26, followed by the AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony on Monday, January 27 and the three-on-three, round-robin 2020 AHL All-Star Challenge that evening.
The 2020 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Ontario International Airport will feature the top young talent in the American Hockey League: since 1995, more than 95 percent of All-Star Classic participants have gone on to compete in the National Hockey League, including Cam Atkinson, Patrice Bergeron, Jordan Binnington, Ben Bishop, John Carlson, Zdeno Chara, Logan Couture, Connor Hellebuyck, Braden Holtby, Tyler Johnson, Andreas Johnsson, Martin Jones, Jonathan Marchessault, Brandon Montour, Kyle Palmieri, Zach Parise, Mikko Rantanen, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Dylan Strome, P.K. Subban and Mats Zuccarello.
After debuting in 2018-19, AHLTV (theahl.com/AHLTV) is back for its second season of live streaming every AHL game in high definition on desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices, as well as over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV. AHLTV is also available through the official AHL mobile app for iOS and Android.
Subscription packages range from $7.99 for a single day’s worth of games to just $99.99 for every game from opening night until the Calder Cup is raised in June.
The 2019-20 season on AHLTV officially kicks off with an Opening Weekend Freeview; all games from Oct. 4-6 are free to anyone with an AHLTV account (no purchase or subscription necessary).
The AHL’s positioning in social media also continues to grow, and the league’s feeds remain great sources for breaking AHL news, special offers, behind-the-scenes insights and fan interaction. The AHL has more than 100,000 fans on each of its Facebook (fb.com/theahl), Twitter (@TheAHL), and Instagram (theahl) feeds, and the AHL communications department also maintains a news feed on Twitter (@AHLPR).
The AHL’s digital properties are anchored by the league’s official website, theahl.com, which is fully compatible with desktop, mobile and tablet devices alike. In addition, the official AHL mobile app is available for free for iPhone and Android devices.
The 2019-20 AHL Guide & Record Book is available for viewing and download at theahl.com/publications.
In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives, broadcasters and staff of all 31 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of NHL players each year are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers.