See also: American Hockey Association (1926–1942).
The American Hockey League (AHL) is a professional ice hockey league in North America that serves as the primary developmental circuit for the National Hockey League (NHL). 29 of the 30 NHL teams have exclusive affiliation agreements with one of the AHL's 29 active clubs. The lone exception, the Dallas Stars, will have their own AHL affiliate for the 2009–10 season when the Texas Stars begin play.
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 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.
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 Stars who defeated the Philadelphia Ramblers in the finals, three-games-to-one. Now second only to the Stanley Cup in both age and prestige among North American hockey's championship awards, the Calder Cup continues on today as the AHL's play-off trophy.
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.
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 Flyers to 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 Mariners which brought the new AHL city of Portland, Maine both the regular season and Calder Cup play-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—Philadelphia and Binghamton—suddenly without a league to play in. Binghamton solved its problem by acquiring and moving the Reds' franchise from Providence and joined the league as the Binghamton Dusters (aka Broome Dusters). The Philadelphia Firebirds acquired 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.
In 2001–02 its membership jumped dramatically to 27 in 2001–02 mostly by absorbing six cities -- Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Salt Lake City (as Utah), Winnipeg (as 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 Cleveland in 2007 as the Lake Erie Monsters). The Chicago Wolves (2002, 2008), Houston Aeros (2003), and Milwaukee Admirals (2004) have each already won a Calder Cup playoff 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 Admirals and the Norfolk Admirals.
|Division||Team||Arena||City/Area||NHL Affiliate Team(s)||ECHL/CHL Affiliate Team(s)|
|rowspan=7||Atlantic||Hartford Wolf Pack||XL Center||Hartford, CT||New York Rangers||Charlotte Checkers/Mississippi RiverKings|
|Lowell Devils||Tsongas Arena||Lowell, MA||New Jersey Devils||Trenton Devils|
|Manchester Monarchs||Verizon Wireless Arena||Manchester, NH||Los Angeles Kings||Ontario Reign|
|Portland Pirates||Cumberland County Civic Center||Portland, ME||Buffalo Sabres||Hudson Valley Bears (EPHL)|
|Providence Bruins||Dunkin' Donuts Center||Providence, RI||Boston Bruins||Danbury Mad Hatters (EPHL)|
|Springfield Falcons||MassMutual Center||Springfield, MA||Edmonton Oilers||Stockton Thunder|
|Worcester Sharks||DCU Center||Worcester, MA||San Jose Sharks||Phoenix RoadRunners|
|rowspan=7||East||Albany River Rats||Times Union Center||Albany, NY||Carolina Hurricanes||Florida Everblades|
|Binghamton Senators||Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena||Binghamton, NY||Ottawa Senators||Elmira Jackals|
|Bridgeport Sound Tigers||Arena at Harbor Yard||Bridgeport, CT||New York Islanders||Utah Grizzlies/Odessa Jackalopes|
|Hershey Bears||GIANT Center||Hershey, PA||Washington Capitals||South Carolina Stingrays|
|Norfolk Admirals||Norfolk Scope||Norfolk, VA||Tampa Bay Lightning||Augusta Lynx|
|Philadelphia Phantoms||Wachovia Spectrum||Philadelphia, PA||Philadelphia Flyers||Mississippi Sea Wolves|
|Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins||Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza||Wilkes-Barre, PA||Pittsburgh Penguins||Wheeling Nailers|
|Division||Team||Arena||City/Area||NHL Affiliate Team(s)||ECHL/CHL Affiliate Team(s)|
|rowspan=7||North||Grand Rapids Griffins||Van Andel Arena||Grand Rapids, MI||Detroit Red Wings||Dayton Bombers|
|Hamilton Bulldogs||Copps Coliseum||Hamilton, ON||Montreal Canadiens||Cincinnati Cyclones|
|Lake Erie Monsters||Quicken Loans Arena||Cleveland, OH||Colorado Avalanche||Johnstown Chiefs|
|Manitoba Moose||MTS Centre||Winnipeg, MB||Vancouver Canucks||Victoria Salmon Kings|
|Rochester Americans||Blue Cross Arena||Rochester, NY||Florida Panthers||Florida Everblades|
|Syracuse Crunch||War Memorial at Oncenter||Syracuse, NY||Columbus Blue Jackets||Johnstown Chiefs|
|Toronto Marlies||Ricoh Coliseum||Toronto, ON||Toronto Maple Leafs||Reading Royals|
|rowspan=8||West||Chicago Wolves||Allstate Arena||Rosemont, IL||Atlanta Thrashers||Gwinnett Gladiators|
|Houston Aeros||Toyota Center||Houston, TX||Minnesota Wild||Corpus Christi IceRays|
|Iowa Chops||Wells Fargo Arena||Des Moines, IA||Anaheim Ducks||Bakersfield Condors|
|Milwaukee Admirals||Bradley Center||Milwaukee, WI||Nashville Predators||Cincinnati Cyclones|
|Peoria Rivermen||Carver Arena||Peoria, IL||St. Louis Blues||Alaska Aces|
|Quad City Flames||i wireless Center||Moline, IL||Calgary Flames||Las Vegas Wranglers|
|Rockford IceHogs||Rockford MetroCentre||Rockford, IL||Chicago Blackhawks||Gwinnett Gladiators|
|San Antonio Rampage||AT&T Center||San Antonio, TX||Phoenix Coyotes||Arizona Sundogs, Laredo Bucks|
The American Hockey League first held an All-Star Game in the 1941–42 season. The event was not played again until the 1954–55 season, and was then held annually until the 1959–60 season. In the 1994–95 season, the AHL revived the events again, and has been played every season since. The skills competition was first introduced for the 1995–96 season. The PlanetUSA team is made up of players born outside of Canada and the Canada team is made up of players born within Canada.
|January 26, 2009||DCU Center||Worcester, MA||PlanetUSA||14||Canada||11|
|January 28, 2008||Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena||Binghamton, NY||Canada||9||PlanetUSA||8 (SO)|
|January 29, 2007||Ricoh Coliseum||Toronto, ON||PlanetUSA||7||Canada||6|
|February 1, 2006||MTS Centre||Winnipeg, MB||Canada||9||PlanetUSA||4|
|February 14, 2005||Verizon Wireless Arena||Manchester, NH||PlanetUSA||5||Canada||4 (SO)|
|February 9, 2004||Van Andel Arena||Grand Rapids, MI||Canada||9||PlanetUSA||5|
|February 3, 2003||Cumberland County Civic Center||Portland, ME||Canada||10||PlanetUSA||7|
|February 14, 2002||Mile One Stadium||St. John's, NF||Canada||13||PlanetUSA||11|
|January 15, 2001||First Union Arena at Casey Plaza||Wilkes-Barre, PA||Canada||11||PlanetUSA||10|
|January 17, 2000||Blue Cross Arena||Rochester, NY||Canada||8||PlanetUSA||3|
|January 25, 1999||First Union Center||Philadelphia, PA||PlanetUSA||5||Canada||4 (OT/SO)|
|February 11, 1998||Onondaga War Memorial||Syracuse, NY||Canada||11||PlanetUSA||10|
|January 16, 1997||Harbour Station||Saint John, NB||World||3||Canada||2 (OT/SO)|
|January 16, 1996||Hersheypark Arena||Hershey, PA||USA||6||Canada||5|
|January 17, 1995||Providence Civic Center||Providence, RI||Canada||6||USA||4|
|December 10, 1959||Eastern States Coliseum||West Springfield, MA||Springfield Indians||8||AHL All-Stars||3|
|January 15, 1959||Hershey Sports Arena||Hershey, PA||Hershey Bears||5||AHL All-Stars||2|
|October 6, 1957||Rochester Community War Memorial||Rochester, NY||AHL All-Stars||5||Cleveland Barons||2|
|October 23, 1956||Rhode Island Auditorium||Providence, RI||Providence Reds||4||AHL All-Stars||0|
|January 10, 1956||Duquesne Gardens||Pittsburgh, PA||AHL All-Stars||4||Pittsburgh Hornets||4|
|October 27, 1954||Hershey Sports Arena||Hershey, PA||AHL All-Stars||7||Cleveland Barons||3|
|February 3, 1942||Cleveland Arena||Cleveland, OH||East All-Stars||5||West All-Stars||4|
On January 6, 2006, the league announced the first inductees into the AHL's new Hall of Fame: Johnny Bower, Jack Butterfield, Jody Gage, Fred Glover, Willie Marshall, Frank Mathers and Eddie Shore. The founding members were formally inducted, on February 1, 2006.
The following is a list of awards of the American Hockey League.
† Trophy predates American Hockey League, established 1926–27 in the Canadian Professional Hockey League.