American Hockey League (AHL) Details 2022

The American Hockey League (AHL) is an elite ice hockey team based across the United States and Canada that serves as the primary developmental competition for National Hockey League (NHL). Since the 2010-11 season every team in the league has signed an affiliation agreement with an NHL team. In the event that NHL teams do not include an AHL affiliate they assign players to AHL teams which are affiliated in other NHL teams. The majority of the AHL players are located within United States and the remaining six are located in Canada. The league offices are located in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the president of the league will be Scott Howson.

In general, a player must be at least 18 years old to participate in the AHL or currently tied to a junior hockey team. The league has a limit on the number of professional players who can be found on an active roster for any match; five skaters can be able to accumulate four full seasons of playing when playing at the level of professional (goaltenders are exempt from this rule and may remain in the AHL for as long as they want without being subject to the cap). The AHL allows for contract agreements for practice squads.

The champion of the playoffs is awarded the Calder Cup, named for Frank Calder, the first President (1917-1943) of the NHL. The current champions are the Chicago Wolves in 2022, they are one of the teams to take home the Calder Cup since the Charlotte Checkers in 2019.


Predecessor leagues

The AHL is traced directly to two predecessor professional leagues which were: The Canadian-American Hockey League (the “Can-Am” League) founded in 1926, and the initial International Hockey League, established in 1929. Although there was no evidence that the Can-Am League never operated with more than six teams. The departure from the Boston Bruin Cubs after the 1935-36 season saw it reduced to four clubs which included that is the Springfield Indians, Philadelphia Ramblers, Providence Reds, and New Haven Eagles – for the first time in its history. At the same time it was the case that the IHL was able to shed half of its eight members after the 1935-36 season, also leaving just four teams in its membership that included the Buffalo Bisons, Pittsburgh Hornets, Buffalo Bisons, Syracuse Stars, Pittsburgh Hornets, and Cleveland Falcons.


Both leagues had dwindled down to the minimum number of teams that are viable, the leaders of both leagues understood the necessity of taking action to protect their clubs’ longevity. Their solution was an interlocking calendar. Although the Can-Am was located on the Northeast and the IHL in the Great Lakes, their footprints were in close proximity for this to be a feasible option. The two leagues’ eight surviving clubs began joint play in November 1936 as a new two-division “circuit of mutual convenience” known as the International-American Hockey League. Its four Can-Am teams were then merged into the IAHL East Division and the IHL group playing as the West Division. The IHL also contributed its former championship trophy that was the F. G. “Teddy” Oke Trophy, which would go to the regular season winners of the merged league’s West Division until 1952. The Oke Trophy is awarded to the regular season winners of The AHL’s Northeast Division.

In less than an entire month into the initial season it was apparent that the coherence and balance of the new circuit suffered an unintended setback when the members suddenly fell down to just seven teams. Western’s Buffalo Bisons were forced to end their operations on December 6 in 1936 after having played only 11 games due to of difficult financial challenges and the lack of access to an appropriate arena. Bisons initial venue, Peace Bridge Arena, was in decline the season before (a newly formed Buffalo Bisons team would return to the league in the year 1940 following the construction of a new stadium for the Bisons). The impromptu new I-AHL played out the rest of its inaugural season (as well as the following season) with just seven teams.

After the 1936-37 season, a modified three-round playoff format was developed and a new championship trophy, known as the Calder Cup, was established. The Syracuse Stars defeated the Philadelphia Ramblers in the final, three-games-to-1, to take home the first Calder Cup championship. It was the first time that this tournament has been held. Calder Cup continues on today as the AHL’s playoff championship trophy.

Two seasons later, after interlocking play The governors of the two leagues’ seven teams convened at New York City on June 28th, 1938, and agreed it was time to officially join forces. Maurice Podoloff of New Haven was the previous head of the Can-Am League, was elected as the first president of the I-AHL. A former IHL chief, John Chick of Windsor, Ontario, became vice-president responsible for official matters.

It was announced that the new I-AHL additionally added an additional franchise at the 1938 annual meeting to fill the gap in its membership created by the demise of Buffalo two years earlier with the addition of the two-time winning Eastern Amateur Hockey League (EAHL) champion Hershey Bears. These Bears remain the only one of the original eight I-AHL/AHL teams to be recognized in the league without interruption since the season of 1938-39. The newly-merged circuit has also has increased the regular season schedule of every team to six more games from the 48th to the 54th.

Following the 1939-39 season, the I-AHL renamed itself in 1939 to the American Hockey League. It generally enjoyed both consistent success on the ice and some financial stability during its first three decades of operating. In the late 1960s , and the early 1970s it became apparent that the cost of doing business in the professional world of hockey increased significantly due to NHL expansion and relocation (the NHL placed teams in Pittsburgh and Buffalo in the late 1960s, causing two long-standing AHL clubs, the Pittsburgh Hornets and Buffalo Bisons, to fold) and especially the 1972 establishment of the World Hockey Association (WHA) which forced the relocation and subsequent folding of Cleveland Barons, Baltimore Clippers, and Quebec Aces. The number of major league teams competing for players rose from six to thirty in just seven years. The salaries of players at all levels have risen dramatically in response to increased demand and increasing competition for their services.

The issue did not appear to influence the AHL initially, however, it grew to 12 teams by the year 1970. To make up for the increasing salary for players, a lot of NHL clubs cut back on the number of players they kept on development contracts and players under AHL contracts are now able to need to earn more money to stay with their clubs. This led to nearly half of teams from the AHL closed between 1974 and 1997. The league’s peak was reached in the summer of 1977, with the announcement that Rhode Island (formerly Providence) Reds – the last remaining unbroken franchise from the 1936-37 season and the longest operating minor league team in North America – had decided to stop operations after 51 years in Rhode Island.

The AHL appeared to be in danger of losing its existence if the downward trend wasn’t reversed. However, two events in the fall of 1997 helped bring the trend back. The first one was the decision by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers to return to the league as team owners, and the second was the sudden demise of the North American Hockey League just weeks prior to the start of the 1977-78 NHL season.

The Flyers are now an AHL franchise was immediately profitable Maine Mariners that brought the newly-created AHL city of Portland, Maine both the regular-season and Calder Cup playoff titles in each of that club’s first two seasons of operation. The collapse of the NAHL, meanwhile, suddenly made two of its most powerful teams such as the Philadelphia Firebirds and Binghamton, New York-based Broome Dusters, without a league to play in. The owner of the Dusters were able to solve their problems by purchasing the Reds franchise and moving the franchise to Binghamton as Binghamton’s Binghamton Dusters, while the Firebirds crossed over into the AHL after being in the NAHL. The Dusters and Firebirds, together with the Hampton Gulls (who had joined the league through an earlier league called the Southern Hockey League), boosted the AHL to nine member clubs as the 1977-78 hockey season began. Hampton ended its existence at the end of February in 1978, but was replaced the following time by New Brunswick Hawks. With the stability of the franchise improving after the demise of the WHA in 1979 The league continued to expand steadily throughout the years until it reached 20 clubs at the end of the 2000-01 season.

IHL is absorbed by the IHL

In 2001-02, membership in the AHL increased up to 27 teams. This was primarily because of the adsorption of six teams – Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Utah, Manitoba, and Grand Rapids from the International Hockey League. The IHL was established as the second highest-level minor league competition in North America, but folded in 2001 due to financial difficulties. One oddity caused by the AHL’s expansion in 2001 was that the league had two teams with the exact same name that was the Milwaukee Admirals and the Norfolk Admirals. The latter team moved into AHL from lower-level ECHL in the year 2000. The transition lasted until close of the 2014-15 season after which the Norfolk team relocated to San Diego and was replaced by another ECHL team that had similar name.

The Utah Grizzlies suspended operations after the 2004-05 season (the franchise was sold to a third party in 2006, but returned to the skating rink in Cleveland in 2007 under the name of they were the Lake Erie Monsters, now being referred to as The Cleveland Monsters). They are the Chicago Wolves (2002, 2008), Houston Aeros (2003), Milwaukee Admirals (2004) as well as the Grand Rapids Griffins (2013, 2017) have all won Calder Cup titles since joining the AHL from the IHL. Chicago and Milwaukee are also making numerous appearances at the Calder Cup Finals, and Houston has made their second Finals appearance in the year 2011.

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The Manitoba Moose moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011 and changed to The St. John’s IceCaps after the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg in 2012 as the second iteration from Winnipeg Jets. Winnipeg Jets. They moved to the city in 2013, Houston was relocated in 2013 the team to Des Moines, Iowa to become the Iowa Wild. The result was Chicago, Grand Rapids and Milwaukee as the only ex-IHL teams remaining in their respective cities, until the 2015 relocations in which the IceCaps moved back to Winnipeg under the name of the Manitoba Moose.

Relocations and western shift

From the beginning of the 2015-16 season 12 franchises were relocated due to NHL parent club influence over their players and teams for development. Of the twelve franchises that were relocated nine were relocated since they were owned directly by NHL teams, and teams owned by an NHL parent club was looking to make call-ups from the AHL easier by having more affiliates.

In January 2015, the AHL announced the relocation of five existing AHL franchises–Adirondack, Manchester, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, and Worcester–to California as the basis for a new “Pacific Division” becoming Stockton, Ontario, San Diego, Bakersfield, and San Jose respectively. The teams that were relocated were affiliated and owned or purchased by teams of the NHL’s Pacific Division. The franchise movements continued with two more relocations for Canadian teams with those of the St. John’s IceCaps going back to Winnipeg as the Manitoba Moose and the Hamilton Bulldogs which was a second iteration of the IceCaps to fulfill its arena contracts in St. John’s.

In the following seasons, more NHL clubs influenced league membership. In 2016, The Springfield Falcons franchise was purchased by the Arizona Coyotes and relocated to be the Tucson Roadrunners and join the one-year-old Pacific Division. The Falcons were later replaced by their counterparts, the Springfield Thunderbirds, the relocated Portland Pirates franchise under a new ownership group. The Montreal Canadiens-owned IceCaps relocated to the Montreal area of Laval, Quebec, and was renamed Laval Rocket in 2017. Laval Rocket in 2017. In 2017, the Binghamton Senators were also purchased by the Ottawa Senators and were relocated to Belleville, Ontario, to be Belleville Senators. Belleville Senators while the New Jersey Devils owned by the Albany Devils were relocated to become their own Binghamton Devils.

For the 2018-19 campaign, an additional team was added to this league along with it being the Colorado Eagles as the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche affiliate. With the NHL intending to grow to 32 teams in 2021, with teams like the Seattle Kraken, the Seattle owner group was approved for a 2021 AHL expansion team. The team was later revealed to be known as the Coachella Valley Firebirds based in Palm Springs, California, following the development of an arena. The original plans for the new arena was eventually cancelled and the team postponed the launch date by a year as new arena plans were developed.

In February 2020 The San Antonio Rampage franchise was acquired and moved by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights for the 2020-21 season. They were renamed they were known as the Henderson Silver Knights and was transferred to the Pacific Division. For the 2021-22 year, they Vancouver Canucks relocated their franchise from Utica to Abbotsford while the Utica Comets agreed to relocate and operate the franchise which was operating under the name of The Binghamton Devils. On the 23rd of May 2022 it was declared that Stockton Heat would be relocating to Calgary, Alberta, starting the 2022-23 season.