Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Category Archives: The AHL

American Hockey League Delays Start of 2020-21 Season

We aren’t starting on time.

On Thursday, the AHL announced that out of its Board of Governors call that they have delayed the start of the 2020-21 season to December 4, 2020.

Here is the whole announcement:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO Scott Howson has announced a revised start date for the 2020-21 AHL season, as approved by the league’s Board of Governors during its 2020 Annual Meeting held today via conference call.

At the recommendation of the AHL’s Return to Play Task Force, the Board of Governors has approved moving the anticipated start of the 2020-21 regular season to December 4, 2020, due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. The AHL will continue to work with its member clubs to monitor developments and local guidelines in all 31 league cities.

Further details regarding the 2020-21 American Hockey League schedule are still to be determined.

In operation since 1936, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers.

Coal Street responded with it’s own announcement:

Which was basically the same thing that the AHL had to say in their initial announcement.

You are probably looking at a shortened season, where you will probably see regional opponents only, and a lot of them, over the course of a season of probably anywhere from 40-50 games. That means Hershey, Lehigh Valley more than the 12 times we have played them in the past. Probably no Western Conference teams this season and definitely no Canadian teams like Belleville or Toronto.

What I hope happens, if there is any hope of having a season, is what you are seeing with the NHL, NBA and MLS. Teams in a bubble and playing inside of that bubble. Could Bridgeport, Hartford, Springfield and Providence all set up shop in Wilkes-Barre for example and play games against each other and the Bears, Penguins and Phantoms? It’s a possibility and it may not be that big of a logistical nightmare as you would think. If an AHL arena is the main source of income for a building (in most markets) then freeing up a building to play a game every day there when there is nothing else going on is a potential possibility.


I still think we are months away from having fans in the building and even when we get there, how many said fans can you have in the building and how many of those fans would feel safe venturing into a building with 3000 other strangers? If the AHL is a gate driven league, playing games behind closed doors isn’t feasible throughout every market. Setting up in five or six regional markets in front of no one or a limited amount could be a possibility.

So we continue to wait, and wear our masks.

There is other news out there, Wilkes-Barre signed a bunch of guys recently. Nick Schilkey and Zach Nastasiuk are Mike Velucci guys and won a Calder Cup with him in Charlotte last season and are good additions….Matt Abt signed with the Colorado Eagles….the Pens brought back Jon Lizotte and Chase Berger for next season.

I haven’t forgotten about the blog and it isn’t going anywhere. There just hasn’t been any news to report worth filling out a post on. When the news comes, like today, I’ll have stuff for it. Stay tuned, I guess.

More importantly, stay safe.

American Hockey League Cancels Season Officially

I honest to goodness don’t know what took them so long.

On Monday morning, the American Hockey League officially cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs.

No champion crowned for the first time in League’s existence. What the standings were when they called a pause to the season is what the standings are. Penguins finish sixth, based off of points percentage.

Locally, there is a COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of the Mohegan Sun Arena where the Penguins play. I lost count of how many other AHL arenas were opening up for either testing sites or hospital beds or the like. Writing on the wall that this season would be done was on up for weeks, it just took them until May 11 to stick a fork in the season, officially.

They can’t play behind closed doors because AHL teams exist on sponsorships and people in seats. That’s problem one.

Problem two is the fact that Pennsylvania (home of three AHL teams) is still under a partial state lock down. You can’t even go to a restaurant or get your hair cut. A sporting event? Pshaw! Even if the League were to restart, playing in front of no one just wouldn’t be feasible.

Problem three is the apprehension of others and most of venturing out in public unless or until there is a vaccine or a green light somewhere that it’s okay to go out in public.

Longer term effects are the 33 million plus people out of work who are struggling to make rent or put food on the table. Going to a Friday game against an opponent that you see 12 times in a season in an arena with 4,000 other humanoids who may or may not be infected with the virus and paying $12 for food and drink per person is likely very, very low on the priority scale.

Which leads to my next point, which is don’t expect the 2020-21 season to start on time. You are, at best, looking at a shortened season which will probably start in December 2020 or even January 2021. You have to remember that the AHL is a feeder league to the NHL and the NHL seems hell bent on restarting their paused season and having playoffs and then opening up around December of 2020. Personally I think it is silly, because, even if you get a best case scenario of a restart of a hockey season in December 2020, you are 18 months out to having a regular 76 game AHL season again which starts in 2021-22. It’s going to happen regardless because I can’t see the AHL starting on time again in October.

Hope I am wrong.

Where it leaves you as a season ticket holder with your team and tickets into the future isn’t for me to tell you. As soon as the news hit the Twitter feed Monday, I saw a number of teams light up across the AHL with questions and answers and what to do if you have invested in this lost season and into 2020-21.

The Penguins have theirs here, with what to do if you are a full season member here. There are also links if you have a 22 game plan and a 12.

Content wise, I have no idea. Season wrap? Big board? Final Power Rankings? Final update to my stats board? Hell, I have all of spring, all summer and probably all of fall to work on all that stuff if I choose.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

Where Things Stand 4/24

Man, it’s been so long since I updated that there is dust everywhere here at the blog and I damn near forgot the password to get in. Anyway, a quick update as to where things stand with the “paused” American Hockey League season.

– Teams on Twitter are talking like it’s the end of the season. From goals of the season and silly GIFs, it certainly looks like teams are packing it in until official word.

– Did you pay for your season tickets for 2020-21 yet? I did. There hasn’t been any official word from the Penguins yet regarding any type of refunds or credits which may apply for this lost, er,, paused season or next years start.

– I don’t have anything for you on what to do with unused vouchers and the like. I know were were due another bobble head and assorted tchotchkes. My guess is when official word comes down on the fate of the season, all will be revealed.

On the remainder of the season, two things came to light today. You will need sound for this first one.


That last one is paywalled, but the finer points include:

– AHL isn’t likely to restart the 19-20 season.
– They have a plan to start on time for 20-21.
– The have a plan to have a delayed start to 20-21 also.
– The whole NHL-AHL owned clubs / independent AHL teams.
– One last headache for David Andrews, who is stepping down at the end of the season. Hell of a way to go out if you ask me.

They, unlike their NHL counterpart, can’t play games in front of no one because they don’t have a TV contract. So I wouldn’t worry at least in this far term about AHL games being played behind closed doors next year. It isn’t financially feasible for some of, if not all of the teams.

What it means for you the ticket payer to the men and women in the front offices of the AHL team you support is anyones guess. I would like to think that some of the ticketing offices are pressuring the front offices asking what is going on so they can have some type of plan in place for 2020-21.

The AHL Board of Governors is set to have a call at some point in the near future and I would expect that the 19-20 AHL season will be called off officially. When that happens, look for that official word here.

Oh, out the door, the Penguins re-signed Chase Berger for next season, whenever the hell that is going to be.

Stay safe.

American Hockey League Postpones Season Until May

If you followed it on Twitter Monday, they were on again, off again. At 5 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time on Monday, Springfield bought itself time.

AHL’s season pause will run out to May. Players are heading home.

Delaying until May buys the League about six weeks to come up with some type of contingency plan which still ultimately may end up in season cancellation. You still have 200+ regular season games left to play, plus playoffs. That is, unless you truncate what’s left of the season and either go straight into playoffs and come up with a format that runs a Calder Cup Final out to mid-June, best case.

It’s a bandaid on a bullet wound. The world as you know it has changed. If you haven’t been told to work from home yet, you will be, like I was on Monday. You are home from school and don’t know when you are going to go back. The last thing on anyones minds really should be when something as insignificant as sports are going to restart, let alone minor leagues.

Things can change and when they say that this situation with COVID-19 is fluid and literally changes every hour it’s true. Example, just last week I was still coming in to work and six of my colleagues volunteered to work from home due to this. Today, they scrapped those plans entirely and everyone was instructed to work from home. Maybe the worst of the pandemic happens in a week to ten days and we slowly work out of it and get the country and life as we all know it back online. But I just don’t see it happening, not when it comes to the resumption of play for the 2019-20 AHL season.

More, as it comes when it comes. Stay healthy.

American Hockey League Suspends Season 3/12

Thursday afternoon after a Board of Governors call which wrapped up around 3:30 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time, the American Hockey League announced that they have suspended the 2019-2020 season indefinitely due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 (Corona) virus.

The statement from Springfield reads as follows…

Here is the official statement from Coal Street:

Expand to see the whole statement in its entirety.

Some teams were getting out ahead of the virus and cancelling player appearances, some arenas were taking precautions adding extra hand sanitizer stations and some were even considering playing behind closed doors with no fans in attendance.

The NBA, Major League Soccer, the NHL, MLB and even some college leagues had all previously announced pauses or suspensions to their seasons. In MLS it’s 30 days, baseball is paused for two weeks. Everywhere else there isn’t a timetable.

There are a little over 200 regular season games left in the AHL. The regular season was set to end on Saturday, April 11. Frankly I don’t see how you are going to wedge the remaining month of games (Wilkes-Barre has 13 games left in the regular season) into a window of the middle of April to say the start of or middle of May. Playoffs, for as long as they go (Calder Cup Finals wrap in mid-June in some years) you are looking at the middle of July if you are to play all the games and hold a standard playoff series.

That’s on the assumption that this virus is contained to a point to where you aren’t cancelling sports.

That’s also on the assumption that teams can even reschedule regular season games in buildings where they aren’t the primary tenant of said buildings. A Tuesday at 1 p.m. start in late April? A 10 a.m. Saturday game because of a concert later that night in early June?

On top of that, what’s the quality of play going to be like playing on an ice surface when it’s 80 degrees outside in some areas? You are attempting to play a winter sport in the summertime.

No, thank you.

It’s a developing situation, one that changes every hour it seems, but my best suggestion is to simply cancel the remainder of the regular season and who ever is top four in their respective divisions (the Penguins are not one of the teams, currently) make playoffs, whenever playoffs start, if you can even get the season going again.

Stay tuned, I guess, but we all just were handed a lot of free time for the foreseeable future.

AHL Power Rankings: Early March 2020

Some changes and shake ups in the top five this week with a pair of Atlantic Division teams set to battle for the top of the division but it’s Belleville who holds on to their top spot in this weeks version of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings.

Binghamton makes a jump into the top five this week and Iowa hangs around also. Pop past the Wild if you didn’t link in direct to see where your favorite team ended up this week.


Last Games: UTI 6 @ BEL 3, MB 4 @ BEL 5 (OT), LAV 4 @ BEL 1, BEL 5 @ CLE 1, BEL 4 @ CLE 1, TOR 4 @ BEL 8
Senators hold the top spot for another go around here on the Power Rankings. Remarkable work done by Troy Mann and his crew to turn the race to the North Division crown into a runaway.


Next Games: vs. ROC 3/6, vs. ROC 3/7, @ LAV 3/11, @ UTI 3/13, @ SYR 3/14
Record: 38-17-4-1


Last Games: HER 1 @ WBS 2, HER 5 @ BRI 4 (SO), CHA 1 @ HER 6, WBS 1 @ HER 5, CHA 6 @ HER 3
Hershey’s going to get company quick in the form of Charlotte and/or Providence quickly. The race for the lead in the Atlantic may become a three horse race.


Next Games: @ HFD 3/6, @ HFD 3/7, @ PRO 3/8, vs. TOR 3/13, vs. WBS 3/14, vs. LAV 3/18
Record: 35-18-3-3


Last Games: CHA 1 @ BNG 2, CHA 6 @ BNG 3, HFD 3 @ BNG 5, TOR 4 @ BNG 5, BNG 1 @ BRI 0
Quite the turnaround in the Southern Tier, but the Devils have little room for error still out of the playoff picture.


Next Games: vs. WBS 3/6, vs. LV 3/7, @ WBS 3/8, @ ROC 3/11, @ LAV 3/13, @ LAV 3/14, vs. LV 3/18
Record: 30-24-4-0


Last Games: SPR 4 @ PRO 7, WBS 1 @ PRO 2, PRO 6 @ WBS 2, PRO 3 @ SPR 1, PRO 3 @ HFD 2
Eight straight wins at a time where playoff jockeying is so important. On this trajectory the next time we do this the Bruins could very well be tops in the Atlantic.


Next Games: vs. SPR 3/6, @ SPR 3/7, vs. HER 3/8, @ HFD 3/11, @ CHA 3/14, @ CHA 3/15
Record: 33-18-3-3


Last Games: IA 3 @ TEX 4, IA 4 @ TEX 0, CHI 2 @ IA 5, IA 2 @ STK 0, IA 1 @ SJ 2 (OT), IA 1 @ SJ 5
It isn’t out of the realm of the reasonable anymore that Iowa may catch Milwaukee for the best in the Central, but that loss in San Jose Wednesday stinks.


Next Games: @ MB 3/7, @ MB 3/8, @ GR 3/11, vs. SA 3/15, vs. SA 3/18
Record: 36-17-4-3

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Weekend Update 3/1

I took the weekend off because of my cat and stayed off Twitter so I apologize if you rely on me to give you updates about the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. Friday night I was in New York State and Saturday night I was home relaxing and decompressing and quite frankly wanting nothing to do with tweeting.

I didn’t watch a second of the Syracuse game Friday because of my travels, but watched a good portion of Saturday’s game. I can tell you that the Penguins were more competitive just based off of what I read on Twitter and elsewhere on Friday than they were on Saturday. I don’t think it’s a situation of giving Hershey the division and the odds on lock in the Calder Cup Finals, but when you constantly turn the puck over and don’t look like a cohesive unit 50+ games into the season, any team will look like a Cup contender.

They lost Friday 4-3. The Penguins were up 2-1, then got it to 3-3 before Alexander Volkov’s goal with under four minutes to play in the third period gave the Crunch the lead for good. Alex Barre-Boulet stole the show, scoring :11 into the game and netting a hat trick with two other goals.

Here’s how they lined up Friday.

Phil Varone made his debut and immediately made an impact. The power play clicked twice and Varone assisted on both goals. Varone had a goal taken away on account of a kick in that was taken away on video review.

Riley Barber had a nice goal that put the Penguins up 2-1 in the first on a power play goal.

Cole Cassels and Phil Varone had the assists there.

Saturday, they were expecting a different result. They played good Friday in Syracuse and were looking to carry the momentum into Hershey Saturday.

It didn’t work.

Here’s how they lined up first and foremost.

No Niclas Almari for both games this weekend. He’s been a sore spot, but I don’t think it would have mattered Saturday. They were on a whole, bad in every way Saturday night.

They went down 4-0. Garret Pilon scored on a breakaway goal off of a gaffe. Daniel Sprong made his Bears debut and scored on a fluke of a goal that clattered around in the air before going in the net. Mike Sgarbossa scores into an empty net when Sprong hit him with a no look behind the back pass. Sgarbossa’s first game back in a while too which made it 3-0. Philippe Maillet scored to make it 4-0 before David Warsofsky connected with a power play goal that made it 4-1 with and assist to Phil Varone before Sgarbossa and Sprong connected again to make it 5-1. Hershey let off from there and protected it’s four goal lead.

That’s basically it in one paragraph. Everything that could go wrong went wrong Saturday.

They have a week to get it together. They head to Binghamton Friday before returning home to face Bridgeport who always plays them tough and host the Devils again for a Sunday matinee.

Some solace as Springfield is struggling just as much and have lost two straight and are on 62 points with the Penguins.

The bad news is fourth place Charlotte is at least four points up with two games in hand after Sunday’s game in Hershey.

We will get back to regularly tweeting the games next weekend dependent on the health of the little guy who is improving.

AHL trade deadline is Monday. I don’t expect the Penguins to be active, but stranger things have happened. Check in Monday for an update there if there is one to be had.

AHL Power Rankings this Thursday but for anything breaking before.