- American Hockey League
Infobox sports league
pixels = 150px
caption = American Hockey League logo
founded = 1936
teams = 29
country = USA
website = [http://www.theahl.com/ www.theahl.com] The American Hockey League (AHL) is a
professional ice hockeyleague in North Americathat serves as the primary developmental circuit for the National Hockey League(NHL). All 30 NHL teams have either exclusive or joint affiliation agreements with one or more of the AHL's 29 active clubs.
The league offices are located in
Springfield, Massachusetts. Until the early 1990s, the headquarters were located in West Springfield, Massachusetts, along with charter member franchise, the Springfield Indians. The AHL's current president is David Andrews.
The annual playoff champion is awarded the
Calder Cup, named for Frank Calder, the first President (1917–1943) of the NHL. The current champions are the Chicago Wolves.
Formation and growth of the AHL
Predecessor leagues (1926–1936)
The AHL traces its origins directly to two predecessor professional leagues: the
Canadian-American Hockey League(aka "Can-Am" League) founded in 1926, and the first International Hockey League established in 1929. Although the Can-Am League never operated with more than six teams, for the first time in its history it dropped after the 1935–36 season to just four member cities: Springfield, Philadelphia, Providence and New Haven. At the same time the then rival International Hockey League lost half of its eight members after the 1935–36 season leaving it as well with just four clubs located in Buffalo, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.
A "circuit of mutual convenience" (1936–38)
With both leagues down to the barest minimum in membership needed to operate, the governors of each recognized the necessity to take proactive steps to assure the long-term survival of their member clubs. To that end they all decided the logical solution to their common problem was for the two leagues to play an interlocking schedule with each other. Styled as the International-American Hockey League, the two older leagues' eight surviving clubs thus began joint play in November 1936, as a new two division "circuit of mutual convenience" with the four Can-Am teams constituting the I-AHL East Division and the IHL's quartet playing as the West Division. In addition, the IHL also contributed its former championship silver, the
F. G. "Teddy" Oke Trophy, which would go to the regular season winners of the West Division in the new I-AHL until 1952. (The Oke Trophy is now awarded to the regular season winners of the AHL's current seven-team East Division.)
A little more than a month into that first season, however, the balance and symmetry of the new combined circuit suffered an early setback when its membership unexpectedly fell to seven as the West's Buffalo Bisons were forced to cease operations on December 6, 1936, after playing just eleven games because of what proved to be insurmountable financial problems and lack of access to a suitable arena. The makeshift new I-AHL thus played out the rest of its first season (as well as all of the next) with just seven teams.
A modified three-round play-off format was devised and a new championship trophy, the
Calder Cup, was established which was awarded for the first time at the end of the 1936–37 season play-offs to the Syracuse Starswho defeated the Philadelphia Ramblersin the finals, three-games-to-one. Now second only to the Stanley Cupin both age and prestige among North American hockey's championship awards, the Calder Cup continues on today as the AHL's play-off trophy.
Formal consolidation of the I-AHL (June 28, 1938)
After two seasons of interlocking play, the governors of the two leagues' seven active teams met in New York City on June 28, 1938, and agreed that it was time to formally consolidate. Maurice Podoloff of New Haven, the former head of the C-AHL which had also been operating as the combined league's Eastern Division, was elected the I-AHL's first president. Former IHL president John Chick of
Windsor, Ontario, and head of the I-AHL's Western Division, became vice-president in charge of officials.
The new I-AHL also added an eighth franchise at the 1938 meeting to fill the void in its membership left by the loss of Buffalo two years earlier with the admission of the then two-time defending EAHL champion
Hershey Bears. [http://hockeyscoop.net/hpa/#clip] (Almost seven decades later, Hershey remains the only one of these eight original I-AHL/AHL cities to have been represented in the league without interruption since the 1938–39 season.) Beginning with the 1938–39 season, the newly merged circuit also increased its regular season schedule for each team by six games from 48 to 54.
Contraction, resurrection, and expansion (1967–2001)
The AHL (as it was renamed after the 1939–40 season) generally enjoyed both consistent success on the ice and relative financial stability over its first three decades of operation. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, the cost of doing business in pro hockey began to rise precipitously with the frequent expansions of the NHL in 1967, 1970, 1972, and 1974, and especially the advent in 1972 of the twelve-team
World Hockey Association(WHA), increased the number of major league teams competing for players from six to thirty in just seven years. Player salaries at all levels shot up dramatically with the increased demand and competition for their services. To help compensate for this increased expense many NHL clubs cut way back on the number of players they kept under contract for development, and players under AHL contracts could now also demand much higher paychecks to remain with their clubs. As a result within a period of just three years from 1974 to 1977 half of the AHL's teams folded dropping the league from twelve clubs to just six. Making the AHL's situation even bleaker as the 1977–78 season approached was the news that the Providence Reds—the last surviving uninterrupted franchise from 1936–37—had decided to cease operations.
The AHL appeared in serious danger of folding altogether in another year or two if this dangerous downward trend were not reversed. As these clouds appeared their darkest, however, two events in the Fall of 1977 helped reverse the trend and began the league back to the great health it enjoys today. The first of these was the decision of the
Philadelphia Flyersto return to the league as a team owner. The second was the unexpected collapse of the North American Hockey League just weeks before the start of the 1977–78 season.
The Flyers' new AHL franchise became the immediately successful
Maine Marinerswhich brought the new AHL city of Portland, Maineboth the regular season and Calder Cupplay-off titles in each of that club's first two seasons of operation. The folding of the NAHL meanwhile left two of its member cities which wanted to continue to operate teams— Philadelphiaand Binghamton, New York—suddenly without a league to play in. Binghamton solved its problem by acquiring and moving the Reds' franchise from Providenceand joined the league as the Binghamton Dusters(aka Broome Dusters). The Philadelphia Firebirdsacquired an expansion franchise as did the new Hampton (VA) Gulls, to boost the AHL to nine member clubs as the 1977–78 season opened. (Hampton folded on February 10, 1978, but was replaced the next year by the New Brunswick Hawks.) The league continued to grow steadily over the years reaching 20 clubs by the 2000–01 season.
Major expansion through absorption of the IHL (2001–02)
In 2001–02 its membership jumped dramatically to 27 in 2001–02 mostly by absorbing six cities --
Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Salt Lake City(Utah), Winnipeg(Manitoba), and Grand Rapids-- from the International Hockey League when that long time rival circuit folded after fifty-six seasons of operation (1945–2001). The Utah Grizzlies suspended operations after the 2004–05 season (the franchise was sold in 2006 and returned to the ice in Clevelandin 2007 as the Lake Erie Monsters). The Chicago Wolves(2002, 2008), Houston Aeros(2003), and Milwaukee Admirals(2004) have each already won a Calder Cupplayoff title since joining the AHL from the IHL. Chicago and Milwaukee have made multiple trips to the playoff finals since their inception into the league. One oddity caused by this expansion is that the league now has two teams with the same nickname: the Milwaukee Admiralsand the Norfolk Admirals.
Trophies and awards
The following is a list of awards of the American Hockey League.
* [http://www.ahlhalloffame.com/TrophyCase/ AHL Hall of Fame]
* [http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/awards/displayawardleague.php?league_id=AHL1941 hockeydb.com]
Les Cunningham Award- Most valuable player "(1947–48)"
John B. Sollenberger Trophy- Top point scorer "(1947–48)"
Willie Marshall Award- Top goal scorer "(2003–04)"
Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award- Rookie of the year "(1947–48)"
Eddie Shore Award- Defenceman of the year "(1958–59)"
Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award- Best Goaltender "(1983–84)"
Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award- Lowest Goals against average "(1947–48)"
Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award- Coach of the year "(1967–68)"
Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award- Sportsmanship / Perseverance "(1977–78)"
Yanick Dupre Memorial Award- Community Service Award "(1997–98)"
Jack A. Butterfield Trophy- MVP of the playoffs "(1983–84)"
Calder Cup- Playoffs champions "(1936–37)"
Richard F. Canning Trophy- Eastern Conference playoff champions "(1989–90)"
Robert W. Clarke Trophy- Western Conference playoff champions "(1989–90)"
Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy- Regular season champions, League "(1997–98)"
Frank Mathers Trophy- Regular Season champions, Eastern Conference "(1995–96)"
Norman R. "Bud" Poile Trophy- Regular Season champions, Western Conference "(2001–02)"
Emile Francis Trophy- Regular Season champions, Atlantic Division "(2001–02)"
F. G. "Teddy" Oke Trophy- Regular Season champions, East Division "(1936–37)"†
Sam Pollock Trophy- Regular Season champions, North Division "(1995–96)"
John D. Chick Trophy- Regular Season champions, West Division "(1961–62)"
† Trophy predates American Hockey League, established 1926–27 in the
Canadian Professional Hockey League.
James C. Hendy Memorial Award- Executive of the Year "(1961–62)"
Thomas Ebright Memorial Award- Outstanding career contributions "(1997–98)"
James H. Ellery Memorial Awards- Outstanding media coverage "(1964–65)"
Ken McKenzie Award- Marketing Executive of the Year "(1978–79)"
Michael Condon Memorial Award- Outstanding service, On-ice official "(2001–02)"
List of AHL seasons
Sports league attendances
* [http://www.theahl.com Official AHL website]
* [http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/ahl1941.html Historic standings and statistics] - at Internet Hockey Database
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