After a 3 pm AHL Board of Governors call, it was announced that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will indeed, be part of the teams playing a truncated 2021 AHL season.
Here are the finer points of the details:
- The Penguins will play in a division with Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Binghamton. It will be called the North Division.
- Pens regular divisional foes Providence, Bridgeport and Hartford will play in a three team Atlantic Division.
- Springfield and Charlotte have opted out entirely. They join Milwaukee. So that’s 28 teams out of a possible 31 who are playing.
- Binghamton will play their games out of Newark, NJ and Providence will play their games in Marlborough, Mass.
- Plan is to play a 32 game schedule out of the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
- No fans allowed. They hope to allow a select few at a later date. Good luck.
- Schedule formats and playoffs are still to be determined.
Some of the finer details out of Coal Street are as follows:
- The 32 game schedule will go from February to mid-May.
- If you are a season ticket member (like me) you will receive information allowing you to access AHL TV for free this year. You will be able to watch Penguins home and away games.
- The credit for last years games and this years will roll over to 2021-22 or if they allow fans later in the year, if you so choose.
- From the Coal Street release, “An extensive health and safety protocol has been put into place by the American Hockey League, which will include extensive cleaning of facilities, as well as regular Covid-19 testing for players and hockey operations staff members.”
Tyler reported that you may see some workday afternoon games to help some of the teams farther away in the division (Rochester, Utica, Syracuse, etc.) get in and out and home all in one day to avoid hotels. That means 3 p.m. (or earlier) starts. You can probably expect to see the same thing when the Penguins travel.
I’m fine with that idea. No teams in the division want to spend time in a hotel this year.
The Penguins will not share any affiliates prospects. It was announced that St. Louis (Springfield’s affiliate this year) will send some of their prospects to Utica. I didn’t see anything on where players from Charlotte or Milwaukee may go.
I will again go on record to state that this is a dumb idea, forced upon AHL teams to, “make it work” to ensure that their non-taxi squad players play these, what I am going to call glorified exhibition scrimmages for the sake of keeping them occupied. Sure, it is a great thing for the men and women who make the AHL teams operate off the ice to have something to do instead of twiddle their thumbs all day recycling GIFs and content for social media. I know my fair share of media, front office, ticketing and broadcasters who are likely thrilled and relieved that there is going to be a “season” to work on. But for the fan, the ones that pay the money to watch this, it’s not going to be a good product. Your top goaltender on every team is going to be on the NHL squad, and your six or seven (maybe more, depending on injuries) players are going to be with the NHL team on the taxi squad. So what’s left is AHL third and fourth liners as your top six, filled out with ECHL fodder filling out the rest of the lineup. Who wants to watch this?
I may change my mind and will likely re-examine my conscience a few times before the start of the shortened season. But I am leaning on scaling back whatever coverage I decide to dedicate to whatever becomes of these glorified exhibitions this season in the hopes that the Fall of 2021 brings some semblance of normalcy where we all can safely return to the rink and enjoy what we took for granted.
But in order to do that you have to wear your mask and stay the hell home if you are sick.
More as it comes, for now.