Monday, January 28, 2013

State of the AHL 1/28

American Hockey League President David Andrews met with the media this morning to deliver his annual state of the league address. You can read all about what Andrews had to say in tomorrow's paper, but there were a few interesting things that I wanted to pass along this afternoon.

Andrews said he considered Glens Falls to be an AHL market and believed the city could support another AHL team once the Adirondack Phantoms move to Allentown, Pa.

“I think the response of the fans there has been very positive,” Andrews said. “It’s a difficult market from the perspective of being as small as it is and not having the kind of corporate base that we have in other cities to draw in from a sponsorship perspective, but it’s one of our historic cities. It’s a building that works for us. It’s in a location that works for us from a travel point of view. I do think there’s a chance that we could still be there.”

The Phantoms have announced they plan to play another season at the Civic Center before moving to Allentown in 2014, but the owners have agreed to relocate if the city can attract another long-term hockey tenant by April 1. But Andrews said there were only "two or three" leases expiring at the end of this season and he doesn't envision that many AHL teams will be relocating this summer.

“We don’t see a whole lot of movement happening and I think the Phantoms will most likely be back there next year,” he said. “I have been in conversation with the mayor and we have committed to him that we will work with them to try and keep AHL hockey in Glens Falls beyond that.”

In other news, a consultant is studying the feasibility of the AHL developing a “western presence,” to get more AHL teams closer to some of the National Hockey League’s Western Conference clubs. The report, which will determine if such expansion is practical, is expected back by early March.

The NHL lockout drove up the AHL’s box office numbers and web traffic, Andrews said. The AHL website had 7.6 million visitors through early January, the end of the lockout, up from 4 million over the same period last year. Ticket revenue was also up 13 percent. They got some new fans.

Now that the lockout has been resolved and a new collective bargaining agreement has been drafted, some changes are coming to the league. Notably, Andrews said AHL players will now be subject to performance-enhancing drug tests, though he did not lay out a timetable for when those may begin.

“That, I think, is a very positive step,” Andrews said. “Our players want it.”

There are a couple other things in the new CBA that Andrews thinks will be good for the AHL.

The four-recall rule, which limited NHL teams to four recalls from the trade deadline through the end of the season, has been eliminated.

He also liked what I'm calling the "Wade Redden Rule," that every dollar a player makes over $900,000 will be billed against the NHL team's salary cap even if the player is sent to the minor leagues. Redden was making $6.5 million while playing for the Connecticut Whale, but had no salary cap hit under the terms of the old CBA. Now, that contract would have a $5.6 million cap hit.

"I think that was fair," Andrews said. "I think it's good for our league. It doesn't hurt us. We still get good players in the league and I think ... our players probably would have been better off in some ways if that number was even lower because the more one-way contracts that come down that are sort of NHL mistakes, I guess, where the guy is making huge money and he's coming down to the American League because he has to play somewhere takes away a job for an American League guy that's a prospect. I guess the NHL club would be less likely to send some of those guys down if it counted against their cap."

Andrews also said a video replay system that was implemented before the start of the 2012-13 season has been used 111 times, and 80 percent of original calls have been confirmed. The hybrid icing rule that was tested earlier this season was well-received, Andrews added, and the vote to end the test to keep the icing rule consistent between the NHL and AHL wasn't unanimous. Some wanted to keep it.

I'll try and find out how the Phantoms voted on that this afternoon. I'll have another blog update after tonight's all-star game and there will be a notebook on that in tomorrow's paper as well.

Until next time,


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