Well, American Hockey League, you’ve done it now. I start a blog described as having a “southern flavor” and you go and put the Checkers in the Midwest Division for 11-12! That’s the big news in Charlotte this week, but plenty has gone on around hockey since the NHL Entry Draft back on June 24. As I’ve read news in the last ten days, I’ve stored appropriate topics away in the Home Cooked Cortex section of my brain. Now it’s all upside down, and I have to stop and think to even tell you who is affiliated with whom.
The AHL announced it’s divisional alignment and playoff format for the 2011-12 season following summer meetings in Hilton Head SC. Previously a four division league, the AHL split things up even further to match the NHL’s six division format. Taking another cue from the bigs, instead of a playoff based by division they will now be ranked by the conference. The three division winners from each conference will receive the top three seeds, with the fourth through eighth following in order. The St. John’s franchise (nee Manitoba Moose) held seniority over the new teams and got to move to the Eastern Conference, while the wee babe Checkers got shuffled to the Western Conference.
Nevermind that Grand Rapids or Cleveland (Lake Erie) would make a fine fit with the Wisconsin & Illinois teams. Syracuse is stupid close to Rochester, Hamilton, and Toronto, you say? Well forget it buddy. In essence what the AHL is telling you is that the Syracuse/Binghamton rivalry is more important than common sense. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little salty about having to look up some of the information on these teams instead of knowing it from last year.
While the Checkers didn’t play any Western Conference teams last year, the East and West do mix during the AHL season even if just a little. I see the schedule playing out one of two ways for us this year:
First, we wouldn’t play any East teams at all. I hope that’s not the case because the series with Norfolk, Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton developed nicely over the last year. Additionally, the Checkers played the AHL affiliates of Washington and Tampa Bay, both Carolina division rivals. As it stands now, the Junior Canes will line up most often versus the affiliates of Vancouver (Chicago), Nashville (Milwaukee), St. Louis (Peoria), and Chicago (Rockford). As it stands now, all four are in the other conference from Carolina. After the NHL moves Winnipeg out of the Southeast Division, Nashville is the logical choice to take their place but that won’t be until 2012-13. The league has taken away an extra element of the passion that fuels our rivalries.
The second scheduling format I could see is letting us play all of the Western teams but reducing the number of West and North match-ups in favor of a few East Division teams. There were a handful of crossovers on the schedule like this last year, and this would make a ton of sense from a travel perspective. The schedule should be out within a month, hopefully the league keeps some regional rivalries intact.
Other recent news from the world of hockey:
- In ECHL news, the New Jersey Devils have announced their intent to cease operations of their Trenton Devils affiliate. The ECHL had the news article up yesterday, but it’s now mysteriously gone. What’s that? A Devils affiliate didn’t work in a Philly suburb? How strange. Here’s your lesson, folks: don’t open a butcher shop in a vegan neighborhood.
- The 2018 Winter Olympic Games were awarded to Peyongchang, South Korea. This will bring Olympic hockey a first time competitor as the Koreans are guaranteed a spot as host country. The IIHF, international governing body for the sport, ranks them between Serbia & Bulgaria at 31st. So if they score any goals at all, citizens of the scored-upon-country will get Kimchi’d in the eye. Hopefully they get some jerseys that look like they didn’t come from a high school team.
- Vancouver rioters are turning themselves into police. Not like a Transformer (or an anarchist…), like a responsible citizen.
- Finally, Peter Worrell was interviewed by The Rat Trick (FL Panthers blog) on hockey’s presence in the south. The interview is quite vanilla, but it gives a great excuse to watch the following video. Side note: Max Talbot got to wear #25 for the Penguins because Peter Worrell ate the guy in the picture on said blog. Ate him.