- The American Hockey League (AHL) is the top North American minor league.
- The AHL suspended play on March 12–the same day that the NHL put their season on hold.
- The AHL has now cancelled the rest of the 2019-2020 regular season and the Calder Cup Playoffs.
While many professional sports leagues worldwide contemplate a return to action the American Hockey League has done just the opposite. The top North American developmental league for the NHL has announced that they will cancel the rest of the 2019-2020 regular season and the Calder Cup Playoffs. The AHL suspended play on March 12 due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This was the same day that the NHL suspended their season. Here’s the statement announcing the cancellation from the AHL Twitter account:
This is the first time in the 84 year history of the AHL that no Calder Cup championship will be awarded. Questions now turn to the 2020-2021 season and there are no easy answers for the AHL. Despite their affiliations with NHL teams the AHL operates as an independent league. Most problematic–the revenue for the league and the individual teams is primarily driven by live attendance. Compounding the tenuous status for next season is the lack of significant broadcast revenue.
There is also a leadership transition underway in the AHL. Scott Howson is the incoming league president and CEO replacing David Andrews. He says that while the AHL is planning for a full regular season starting in October they’re also putting together contingency plans including ones that would have the season start in November, December or January. They’re also considering the viable of play without fans:
“Obviously (we’ll) talk about no fans in the building: Are teams prepared to do that?. It’s just in the infancy stages now, and we’ve got a lot of information to gather. But we are going to have models that sort of have truncated season as we move along. We’re just going to keep planning and make sure we’re flexible and nimble and ready to turn to a different scenario if we have to.”
The AHL also announced that the standings and statistics as of March 12 will be considered as final. This means that Iowa Wild center Gerald Mayhew wins the AHL scoring title with 39 goals in 49 games. He’s pleased with the honor though not necessarily with the way he received it:
“Some of the guys gave me crap for not getting to 40 goals. But it was a special season for me. Getting to play in my first NHL games [with the Minnesota Wild]. Having so much success in the American League. It’s a surreal moment. And that’s why we’re pretty bummed we couldn’t finish what we started.”
Mayhew is in a doubly tough position though he is fortunate to be under contract with the Wild for next season earning $700,000. He’s not sure where–or if–he’ll be playing hockey next year. He’s a strong candidate to head up to the Minnesota Wild and definitely has NHL level skills. On the other hand, he could probably use another year in the AHL and there’s no real clarity about the status of the NHL season either. He doesn’t see the AHL playing games without fans:
“We don’t know when next year’s going to start. I think they’ll have to wait. If you’re playing games without fans, you’re losing money. I can’t imagine that the league is playing games before the fans can come back. It’s a huge guessing game. I’m not a fan of the guessing game. I’m going to guess no one is.”
The American Hockey League has become a frequent sight on sportsbook betting boards over the past decade. There’s still hope that the NHL can return at some point this Summer though the decision of the AHL doesn’t bode well.