2022 AHL Concept

AHL Concept Part One

I am starting a new concept series. This one will focus on the American Hockey League. The American Hockey League is the primary development league for the National Hockey League. The AHL is one step down from the NHL. Each team is affiliated with an NHL team. This concept will be heavily based on real life. This concept is based on things the AHL could do.

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I created concepts for the American Hockey League back in 2016. A lot has changed since then. As the primary goal for the AHL is to develop NHL players and not profit, a lot changes quickly. I do think the AHL does want to make money. I think the NHL wants them to be profitable. The NHL owns the league so being profitable is a huge benefit. In the six or so seasons since I created my last AHL concept there have been about eighteen team changes. Eight teams are gone. Ten teams have been added. I figure there isn’t a better time then now to revisit the AHL.

You can check out my 2016 AHL concept here.

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For the 2022 AHL concept series, I will be mainly focusing on jerseys. I won’t be creating new identities for the league or its teams. I might create some alternate logos. I will be creating event logos. I really want this concept to be grounded in reality. I think there are a lot of interesting things teams can do. I don’t like how most teams copy and paste their NHL affiliates jerseys. I don’t like how most teams base their identities on their NHL affiliates either. I get why they do it. From a marketing standpoint they are capitalizing on the popularity of the NHL. However that only really benefits a team outside of their local market. It doesn’t really benefit their main fanbase. From an NHL standpoint as I understand it, its easier for the players to go from the AHL to NHL if the affiliates have similar identities. Their isn’t a real transition for players. A player doesn’t have to get new equipment. It’s also easier for players to identify their team when playing (not that was ever really an issue).

Anyway, in this series, I will be creating jerseys for all 32 AHL teams. I will try to make them unique from the NHL jerseys. I will also be creating some event concepts. There are also some other slight changes like the season format and realigning the league.

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Home jerseys will be white. That will be to separate the AHL from the NHL. Away jerseys will be dark. Alternate jerseys will be dark. There will be throwback jerseys. There will be city jerseys. Affiliate remix is a series I want to do for this series. Affiliate remixes will be remixes of NHL jerseys. It’s like the reverse retro jerseys but with current NHL jerseys. Heritage jerseys will be based on defunct teams. Outdoor games will have their own jerseys. I will also be doing concepts for the all-star game.

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I won’t be changing any affiliations for this concept.

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I realigned the league for this concept. I don’t like how the current alignment has uneven divisions. What I wanted to do for this concept is make the divisions line up with the NHL divisions. All the AHL teams are in the same divisions as their NHL affiliate. I don’t think this would happen in real life as some of the realignment doesn’t make sense geographically. I renamed the divisions as well. In the Eastern conference their is the North division (Atlantic division) and the World division (metropolitan). I named the World division after the World Hockey Association (WHA). In the Western conference is the International divisions (Central division) and the West Coast division (Pacific division). I named the International division after the International hockey league. I named the West Coast division after the West Coast Hockey League.

The Tucson Roadrunner and Colorado Eagles moved from what was the Pacific division. The Springfield Thunderbirds moved from what was the Atlantic division. They moved into what was the Central division now the International division. What was the Pacific division now the West Coast division didn’t have too many changes besides losing some teams.

The Providence Bruins and Charlotte Checkers moved from what was the Atlantic division. The Grand Rapids Griffins moved from what was the Central division. They moved into the North division.

The Chicago Wolves moved from what was the Central division. The Cleveland Monsters and Utica Comets moved from what was the North division. They moved into what is now the World division formally the Atlantic division.

The north and south of the West Coast division are really spread out. Teams from Canada are in the same division as teams that are almost in Mexico. The International division is spread out the most. It stretches across the entire United States. On top of that The Texas Stars, Colorado Eagles, and Manitoba Moose are really spread out from any other teams. The Tucson Roadrunners and Springfield Thunderbirds are only teams I picked out in the entire league that don’t make sense geographically for their divisions. I think five of the International teams would really struggle financially with travel. A lot of the North and Wold teams could go either way. Twelve of the sixteen teams are in the northeast. The only real anomaly in the Eastern conference is the Charlotte Checkers. They are really far from any other team. They are almost like an island. I don’t think they would hurt on travel as much as some of the International division teams would as the rest of their division is really close together.

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There are 32 total teams. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference. There are 16 teams in the Western Conference. There are four divisions with eight teams each. Each team plays 72 regular season games.

To understand the AHL preseason in this concept, we must understand the NHL preseason in this concept. For this concept, the NHL preseason starts with the World Cup Of Hockey. That would be an 8 team international tournament held in North America with only NHL players. Overlapping part of the WCOH would be the NHL prospects tournament. Each NHL teams puts together a prospects team. They play every team in their division once. The top four teams in each division move on to a single game elimination bracket.

These games would be played on neutral sites. Following the WCOH is the NHL Global Series. For this concept, the NHL Global Series would be a 16-team tournament. There would be 8 NHL teams and 8 non-NHL teams in four groups with 4 teams. NHL teams would play in groups with non-NHL teams. The NHL teams would be made up of the NHL division winners, the conference finalist in the playoffs, and Canadian team that came highest in the standings. If that is 9 teams then their would only be eight spots for the non-NHL teams. If it is less than eight spots then the next highest standing teams in the NHL overall standings get it. Each team plays three group games with the three highest teams in each group moving on to a single game elimination stage. This event would be hosted similarly to the world cup. Following the tournament each NHL team would play each other once in preseason games outside of North America. The eight NHL teams would play their first regular season games internationally. While this going on back in North America NHL teams are playing in 8 team tournaments with the same format as the prospects tournament.

For the teams not participating in the NHL Global Series, following their preseason tournament they play every team in their division to wrap up the preseason. As many of these games should be played outside of NHL markets as possible. Every team would also participate in affiliate games where they play a preseason game at their AHL or ECHL affiliates arena. The NHL regular season would start with the Global Games teams first regular season games. After that would be the Heritage Classic. Then the NHL Faceoff which would be like MLB opening day.

The AHL preseason overlaps with the NHL preseason. 70% to 80% of the AHL players would be with their NHL team during the preseason. The AHL preseason would start with the AHL International Series. Every AHL team would play one preseason game outside of the United States and Canada. This would happen towards the end of the NHL Global Series. The AHL would have their own preseason tournaments. They would four team tournaments with three games played. The top two teams would play in a championship game. For the rest of preseason they would play every team in their division once. The AHL regular season would start with the AHL Canada Classic outdoor game.

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In the AHL regular season each team plays 72 games. 36 home games. 36 away games. 34 games would be divisional games. 22 games would be conference games. 16 games would be non-conference games. Each team would play every team outside of their conference in one game. If that game is home game this season it will be an away game next season and vice versa.

For the postseason six teams from each division would make the playoffs. First and second seed advance to the division semi-final. Third through sixth seed play in a best-of-one wild card. The wild card winners play in the division semi-finals. That would be a best-of-three series. The winners play in the divisional finals. Division finals winners play in the conference finals. Conference finals winners play in the Calder Cup finals. The division finals, conference finals, and Calder Cup finals would be best-of-seven series.

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The AHL Canada Classic outdoor game is the first one of the season. It kicks off the regular season. It will be between the Belleville Senators and the Toronto Marlies. This game will take place at Rogers Center the home of the Toronto Blue Jays. This game will always be with Canadian teams.

The Golden State Hockey Rush is the next outdoor game. This game will be at the Banc of California Stadium. The Ontario Reign will take on the San Diego Gulls. This game will always be between California teams.

AHL Outdoors at Boston is the next outdoor game. This game would be at Fenway Park. It would be between the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and the Providence Bruins. This is what I call an affiliate outdoor game. Affiliate outdoor games are played in the same venues the NHL uses for outdoor events with the AHL affiliates of the NHL teams that are playing.

The AHL Outdoor Classic would be the next outdoor game. It is at Red Bull Arena. It is between the Syracuse Crunch and Utica Comets.

After that is the AHL Stadium Series. Each division gets at least one outdoor game in the AHL Stadium Series. The first game is between the Laval Rocket and the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Saputo Stadium. The second stadium series game is between the Colorado Eagles and Milwaukee Admirals at Canvas Stadium. The next Stadium Series game is between the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Bridgeport Islanders at Coca-Cola Park. The Next Stadium Series game is between the Hershey Bears and Chicago Wolves at NC State. The Last Stadium Series game is between the San Jose Barracuda and Abbotsford Canucks at AVAYA Stadium.

The next outdoor game is the Whale Bowl. For this concept, the Whale bowl is an annual outdoor game in Hartford. For 2023 the Hartford Wolfpack will play the Iowa Wild at Rentschler Field.

The last outdoor game will be the Cleveland Monsters Outdoor Classic. That game will be between the Cleveland Monsters and the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins at FirstEnergy Stadium.

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The 2023 AHL All-Star Classic will be hosted by Rocket Laval. For this concept, the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic will follow the NHL all-star format of a skills competition followed by a 3-on-3 tournament.

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The only special game for this concept will be the Hockeytown Winterfest game. The Detroit Red Wings of the NHL hold an annual Winterfest. As part of that the Grand Rapids Griffins (the Detroit Red Wings AHL affiliate) host a home game at Little Caesars Arena (where the Detroit Red Wings play). For this concept, the Grand Rapids Griffins will be playing the Milwaukee Admirals.

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The first concept will be the AHL Canada outdoor game. That will be coming Friday.

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