The AHL made a huge announcement Wednesday, indicating that the league’s board of governors approved the structural framework that would see the minor league season begin on Feb. 5, 2021. Included in the statement:
Details are still being worked out, but this step allows our teams and their National Hockey League partners to better determine their plans for the coming season. We look forward to dropping the puck on Feb. 5.
The release did not include any specifics on how exactly the games will be played, rosters structured or revenue generated, but it is still obviously great news for hockey fans across North America.
If the AHL succeeds in its plan to kick things off in February, it would likely mean that minor league training camps could start as the NHL season is getting underway in mid-January. The question now becomes how many teams will be able to justify a full AHL season, especially those franchises located in Canada. There was worry before about whether it was possible to have an “All-Canadian” division like the NHL given there are only four teams based north of the border—the Toronto Marlies, Belleville Senators, Manitoba Moose and Laval Rocket—though NHL insider John Shannon believes that is exactly what will happen. The other three Canadian NHL franchises, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, all have AHL affiliates based in the U.S. That poses some challenges for calling players up and down, but perhaps it can be worked out with the taxi squad the NHL has instituted.
At any rate, getting the AHL playing again is a huge step for prospect development all across the league. With so much uncertainty surrounding the CHL seasons, the AHL has become a potential landing spot for many top young prospects who don’t have anywhere else to play. It also means a lot more job openings for veteran players looking for a place to play in North America, though it will certainly be a race given how many spots will already be accounted for with NHL prospects.
There is lots of work left to do and lots of details still to come, but this appears to be a step in the right direction for getting the AHL up and running this season.