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AHL shuffles divisions, postpones Canadian play

AHLWith the 2020-2021 AHL season set to launch Friday, the league has shuffled its schedule and postponed the beginning of play in its Canadian Division.

With the Stockton Heat’s temporary relocation to Calgary for the 2020-21 AHL season, the schedule for the remaining Pacific Division teams (Bakersfield Condors, Colorado Eagles, Henderson Silver Knights, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda and Tucson Roadrunners) was overhauled. The Calgary Flames (NHL) made the decision to relocate the Heat to Scotiabank Saddledome due to cross border travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19. 

The move of the Stockton Heat to Calgary wasn’t the best of news: the league’s five Canadian Division teams (Belleville Senators, Laval Rocket, Manitoba Moose, Stockton Heat, Toronto Marlies) will not begin play this weekend. 

The AHL, like all professional sports leagues, has struggled on the business side due to COVID-19 restrictions. Three teams–Charlotte Checkers, Milwaukee Admirals and Springfield Thunderbirds–are skipping the season, and many teams are relocating to training complexes or home arenas of parent clubs. Four teams have been granted provisional relocations for the 2020-21 season: the Binghamton Devils will play in Newark, NJ; the Ontario Reign will play in El Segundo, CA; the Providence Bruins will play in Marlborough, MA; and the San Diego Gulls will play in Irvine, CA.

“While we are disappointed that we cannot resume playing at this time, both the [Florida] Panthers and Checkers feel it is in the best interests of all parties to opt out for this season,” said Checkers Owner and CEO Michael Kahn when announcing the decision to skip the season. “There are several travel, safety and player supply challenges to consider. Those, coupled with the increasing number of new cases in our area, make it very unlikely that we will be able to host fans at our games in the near future. We are appreciative of our partnership with the Florida Panthers regarding the navigation of this very difficult matter and will immediately focus our efforts on beginning the 2021-22 season in the fall.” 

However, there are some teams welcoming fans–in a socially distanced manner, of course.

RELATED STORIES: Three teams opt out of 2020-2021 AHL season; four temporarily relocate; 2020-2021 OHL season launch indefinitely delayed; Three more teams opt out of 2020-2021 ECHL season; ECHL North Division teams suspend play for 2020-2021 seasonAHL shifts 2020-2021 start date to February

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