In discussion with AHL president David Andrews, Jon Rosen of the Los Angeles Kings Insider was able to get the skinny on what is going to happen with the games for the California teams. There is a reduction, but it isn’t as horrible as many (me included) thought it would be.
That reduction will be a 68-game schedule for the California-based Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda, Bakersfield Condors and Stockton Heat, American Hockey League Commissioner David Andrews confirmed to LA Kings Insider during the first intermission of Friday’s Calder Cup Finals game in Utica, N.Y. Teams outside of the Pacific Division will play 76-game schedules. At this time, it is unclear whether the Texas-based Pacific Division teams – the San Antionio Rampage and Texas Stars – will play a 68 or 76-game schedule.
Now, in the previous discussions, including one that was done by Lindsay Kramer from Syracuse.com, the 25 other AHL teams would play a full 76. That said, should the AHL decide that the divisional play is the way they want to go; then if San Antonio and Texas are able to get a 68-game schedule– it’s not all that bad and the Pacific is on a level playing field as the rest of their counterparts. Of course, who knows if those teams want to give up four home dates that they’re used to because of schedule imbalance, but that’ll be revealed when the schedule is put out.
This brings up the debate of why there is being special things in place for the California teams. The Alaska Aces are a team in the ECHL who never got special treatment, same went for the Abbotsford Heat and Utah Grizzlies when they were in the AHL and far away from other teams in their league.
From what I recall when this idea of California teams were bandied about, the big hold-up is whether or not it would be smart to have these teams in the AHL and not hurt the integrity of the rest of the league. For me, five (or seven) teams getting eight less games than the rest of the team is a little bit of an eyebrow raiser, regardless of the travel/profit involved in it. Granted, the NHL does have better transportation; but if this is a development league– one of the things the players coming up should have to experience is the travel that involved in the hockey life.
That said, I’m just a blogger/podcaster and I’m not paid to make the decisions the AHL is doing– which is something that I don’t envy because who knows what politics are involved when making these decisions for these new teams. It has to be hard on Andrews and the staff to make this, while trying not to alienate the rest of the league in the process. Whether less games will actually be helpful or a hinderance won’t be seen for about three years; but for a league that is coming up on their 80th anniversary, one would think that they wouldn’t bend the rules for the minority of teams after doing all they could to get them into the league in the first place.