AHL President David Andrews held his yearly State of the League press conference. The entire press conference can be found at the bottom of this post. Here are the bullet points.
— 126 players who played in the AHL during the lockout were recalled to the NHL once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was made.
— Ticket sales are up 13% in revenue throughout the league and has been maintained or exceeded even after the lockout.
— TheAHL.com had 4M visits to the website in early January 2012. Thru early January 2013, 7.6M visits.
— TheAHL.com had 19M page views last year. This year, with the lockout, the had 36M page views, during the same period.
— 790K people follow AHL teams on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
— Good to be back to business as usual in the AHL post lockout.
— The AHL had about 1,000 transactions last week with the lockout ending with player movements up and down. About 180 players were invited to NHL training camp.
— TV in Canada and overseas flourishes.
— Off site games are a success.
Andrews took questions. The main topics of said questions are in bold.
— Affiliations. Are stable. It is a financially stable, healthy league right now. There is quality ownership.
— Attendance. Providence bucks the trend in the Northeast hockey market, consistently in the top five in attendance. There is growth in Springfield and Portland. Worcester is stable and Manchester is rebounding.
— Scheduling. No immediate plans to reduce or expand the schedule. If anything, the schedule will reduce more vs. expanding.
— Expansion out West. The AHL would like a west coast presence and hired a consultant to do a feasibility study due mid to late February or early March. The AHL will work with any NHL based Western Conference team to house a team in the western part of North America. They may have a Western Division which Andrews calls “doable” but “we are not there yet.”
— Andrews called the Charlotte and Abbotsford markets sustainable and is not worried about their long term viability.
— One or two affiliation agreements expire at the end of this season and two or three building leases end at the end of the season.
— Rangers deal with the xl Center expires at the end of the year. The affiliation between the Connecticut Whale does too. It is a more unusual situation in Hartford because the building management contract is up at the same time. The Rangers haven’t been able to negotiate a new lease because there isn’t anyone to negotiate with. Ideally the plan is to still have the Rangers and the Whale there into the future.
— Hybrid icing. The NHL liked the idea. The AHL liked it a lot. The AHL moved away from it simply to make it easier on the players going up and down. The voting to do away with the hybrid icing rule was not unanimous. It’s unknown if the NHL will adapt the hybrid icing next season.
— The league feels that Glens Falls is an AHL city even after the Phantoms leave for Allentown. The Phantoms will vacate if a new team is found for Glens Falls.
— On Allentown, the AHL feels that expansion to the Lehigh Valley will be a success, simply by the close proximity to Philadelphia and close proximity to natural rivals in Hershey and Wilkes-Barre / Scranton.
— Head injuries. The AHL tracks them, still has a strict standard to head shots. Have had more suspensions, reviews and discipline from contact to the head and checking from behind. A high percentage of concussions are not caused by illegal plays according to AHL data. 70% of the concussions that were suffered last year were from legal hits. The teams have the opportunity to submit plays to the AHL for supplemental discipline if they would like. They haven’t seen many requests for reviews of illegal hits more recently. They haven’t solved the concussion problem by reducing or eliminating head shots.
— NHL CBA and the impact on the AHL. Performance enhancing drug testing coming to the AHL. Now that they have the support from the NHL they will begin to test, but they don’t know how or where to begin. The players want it and it is seen as a positive step. The four recall rule after the trade deadline has been eliminated. Any player making over 900K count against the salary cap in the NHL.
— Replay. Have seen a lot more replays that they had thought. There have been a total of 111 replays, and 80% of the calls made by the officials have been correct. 20% have overturned the call on the ice.