And while players like Patrick Kane or Sidney Crosby can make the jump from junior leagues into the NHL, most hockey players need a little bit of seasoning. They need a place to hone their skills before they make that leap to the big show.
For most hockey players, that place is the American Hockey League.
The AHL celebrated its 75th anniversary last season. Every NHL team is now affiliated with one AHL team. (Before then, there would be shared affiliation between two NHL teams, sort of like the situation in the ECHL today.) Here on Runs On Duncan, we provide you with news on two of those teams — the Rockford IceHogs (affiliated with the Blackhawks) and the Chicago Wolves (affiliated with the Canucks).
Why is the AHL so important? Why are there two teams with the name “Admirals”? And why in God’s name are we covering a team affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks (besides the fact that they’re in Chicago)? Come along and learn some things after the jump.
The AHL is the primary development league for the NHL. The AHL even has a rule about player development in place for the 2011-12 season:
Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a regular-season game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, IHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.
How many players have gone through the AHL? 50%? Nope, higher. 60%? Higher. 70%? Nope!
Try 87%. Yes, that’s right — almost 9 out of 10 players in the NHL today has skated with an AHL team in their career. That means there’s a chance that some of your favorite players are AHL alumni. On the Blackhawks alone, we have:
- Bryan Bickell (Rockford IceHogs)
- Dave Bolland (Rockford IceHogs)
- Andrew Brunette (Providence Bruins, Portland Pirates)
- Daniel Carcillo (Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, San Antonio Rampage)
- Corey Crawford (Rockford IceHogs)
- Niklas Hjalmarsson (Rockford IceHogs)
- Duncan Keith (Norfolk Admirals)
- Nick Leddy (Rockford IceHogs)
- Sami Lepisto (Hershey Bears)
- Jamal Mayers (Worcester IceCats [relocated, now Peoria Rivermen])
- Steve Montador (Saint John Flames [relocated, now Abbotsford Heat])
- Sean O’Donnell (Rochester Americans)
- Rostislav Olesz (Rochester Americans)
- Alexander Salak (Rochester Americans)
- John Scott (Houston Aeros)
- Brent Seabrook (Norfolk Admirals)
- Patrick Sharp (Philadelphia Phantoms [relocated, now Adirondack Phantoms])
- Ben Smith (Rockford IceHogs)
- Viktor Stalberg (Toronto Marlies)
Why, yes, it would have been easier to name the players who didn’t play in the AHL. But that list wouldn’t have been as impressive.
Here is a handy table so you can learn the different teams and affiliations. Why? I like tables.
|Division||Team||City||NHL Affiliate||ECHL Affiliate|
|ATLANTIC||Manchester Monarchs||Manchester, NH||Los Angeles Kings||Ontario Reign|
|Portland Pirates||Portland, ME||Phoenix Coyotes||Gwinnett Gladiators|
|Providence Bruins||Providence, RI||Boston Bruins||Reading Royals|
|St. John’s IceCaps||St. John’s, NL||Winnipeg Jets||Colorado Eagles|
|Worcester Sharks||Worcester, MA||San Jose Sharks||Stockton Thunder / Kalamazoo Wings|
|NORTHEAST||Adirondack Phantoms||Glens Falls, NY||Philadelphia Flyers||Trenton Titans|
|Albany Devils||Albany, NY||New Jersey Devils||TBA|
|Bridgeport Sound Tigers||Bridgeport, CT||New York Islanders||Kalamazoo Wings|
|Connecticut Whale||Hartford, CT||New York Rangers||Greenville Road Warriors|
|Springfield Falcons||Springfield, MA||Columbus Blue Jackets||Chicago Express|
|EAST||Binghamton Senators||Binghamton, NY||Ottawa Senators||Elmira Jackals|
|Hershey Bears||Hershey, PA||Washington Capitals||South Carolina Stingrays|
|Norfolk Admirals||Norfolk, VA||Tampa Bay Lightning||Florida Everblades|
|Syracuse Crunch||Syracuse, NY||Anaheim Ducks||Elmira Jackals|
|Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins||Wilkes-Barre, PA||Pittsburgh Penguins||Wheeling Nailers|
|NORTH||Grand Rapids Griffins||Grand Rapid, MI||Detroit Red Wings||Toledo Walleye|
|Hamilton Bulldogs||Hamilton, ON||Montreal Canadiens||Wheeling Nailers|
|Lake Erie Monsters||Cleveland, OH||Colorado Avalanche||Allen Americans (CHL)|
|Rochester Americans||Rochester, NY||Buffalo Sabres||None|
|Toronto Marlies||Toronto, ON||Toronto Maple Leafs||Reading Royals|
|MIDWEST||Charlotte Checkers||Charlotte, NC||Carolina Hurricanes||Florida Everblades|
|Chicago Wolves||Rosemont, IL||Vancouver Canucks||TBA|
|Milwaukee Admirals||Milwakuee, WI||Nashville Predators||Cincinnati Cyclones|
|Peoria Rivermen||Peoria, IL||St. Louis Blues||Alaska Aces|
|Rockford IceHogs||Rockford, IL||Chicago Blackhawks||Toledo Walleye|
|WEST||Abbotsford Heat||Abbotsford, BC||Calgary Flames||Utah Grizzlies|
|Houston Aeros||Houston, TX||Minnesota Wild||Bakersfield Condors|
|Oklahoma City Barons||Oklahoma City, OK||Edmonton Oilers||Stockton Thunder|
|San Antonio Rampage||San Antonio, TX||Florida Panthers||Cincinnati Cyclones|
|Texas Stars||Cedar Park, TX||Dallas Stars||Idaho Steelheads / Allen Americans (CHL)|
Now to answer some questions I’m pretty sure you’ll have…
So what’s the deal with the two Admirals teams, anyway?
The Norfolk Admirals were the first team in the AHL with the name, as they entered the league in the 2000-01 season as an expansion team. The next season, the Milwaukee Admirals entered the league after their previous league, the IHL, folded. However, the Milwakuee Admirals had been playing under their name since 1974 (they were named after a brand of household appliances one of their investors sold in his appliance store — yes, seriously).
Since the Norfolk Admirals were so new, and the Milwaukee Admirals were so established, the decision was made to keep the two team names the same. It’s not as confusing as one would think, since there is little inter-conference play in the AHL.
Why are the Blackhawks affiliated with the IceHogs and not with the Wolves?
The Chicago Wolves were part of the IHL and came over to the league at the same time as the Milwaukee Admirals. At that time, the Chicago Blackhawks had already signed on with the Norfolk Admirals. After the Blackhawks ended their affiliation with the Admirals in 2007, the Chicago Wolves were already affiliated with the Atlanta Thrashers. Therefore, the IceHogs (who were previously the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks and relocated) became the affiliates of the Blackhawks.
Why didn’t the Blackhawks come calling when the Wolves were looking for an NHL affiliate this summer? They signed a ten-year deal with Rockford back in 2007. Therefore, they can’t move their affiliation until 2017 at the earliest.
Why are you covering the AHL affiliate of the hated Vancouver Canucks on a Blackhawks website?
Well, the easy answer would be “Because they weren’t affiliated with them before.” Before this season, the Wolves were the AHL team of the Atlanta Thrashers, as previously stated. That relationship ended when the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Winnipeg Jets. See, the owners of the Winnipeg Jets, True North Entertainment, had previously owned an AHL team in Winnipeg, the Manitoba Moose. The Moose were moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and renamed the St. John’s IceCaps. Of course, True North would want both of their teams to be affiliated with each other to maximize profit and synergy and all that other corporate junk, so instead of renewing the Thrashers’ old contract with the Wolves, they switched the Jets’ AHL affiliation to the IceCaps.
The Wolves were now an orphaned team. So, too, were the Vancouver Canucks, who had been previously affiliated with the Manitoba Moose. They decided to come together, and that’s how we here at Runs On Duncan are now covering a team that is affiliated with the Canucks.
You might say that it would be easy not to cover the Wolves, but that would be ignoring a rabid hockey fan base in Chicago. And why would we want to do a silly thing like that?
For more information and news about the AHL teams we cover here on ROD, check out Wolves Wednesdays and IceHogs Thursdays.