The 2012-13 AHL season will open on October 12, 2012 and consist of 1140 games for the 30 teams. If you've been paying close attention, you know that last season's Calder Cup champions, the Norfolk Admirals, will not be affiliated with the same team as they were during their championship run.
decided on June 14 to move their affiliation to the city of Syracuse, New York as the Crunch will be manned by Tampa Bay's AHL players. Along with the move to Syracuse, the Crunch changed their logo again to a superhero-based logo as they swap colors to reflect their new NHL affiliate. After five years and a Calder Cup in Norfolk, Virginia, the Lightning decided to move their affiliate to Syracuse.
The Anaheim Ducks, who previously held the affiliation with Syracuse, had indicated that they would sever ties with the Crunch, thus allowing Tampa Bay to make the move in affiliating with the Crunch. One month later, the Crunch announced an agreement with Onondaga County and SMG that will allow the Crunch to remain in the War Memorial Arena through 2024. If the Lightning were looking for a more stable affiliate, I'd say they found one.
In a rather unsurprising move, the Ducks picked up where the Lightning left as they entered an affiliation agreement with the Norfolk Admirals. The Admirals seem to be the "stopover affiliate" for NHL teams looking to make changes to their AHL system. Chicago and Tampa Bay have both been affiliated with the Admirals since 2000, and the Ducks will be the third team in 12 AHL seasons for the Admirals. While the majority of last season's championship team is gone to Syracuse, former head coach Mike Haviland will remain with the Admirals as an associate coach alongside head coach Trent Yawney.
With these changes in mind, the 77th AHL season is set. There are a few games that should be noted for this upcoming season:
- The St. John's IceCaps and Syracuse Crunch will play a three-game exhibition set throughout Newfoundland as the two teams compete for Mary Brown’s Cup. Corner Brook, Stephenville, and Clarenville will play host to the two teams as they battle through the preseason on October 4, 5, and 7.
- October 12 sees the season open, and the Norfolk Admirals will play as the defending Calder Cup champions and raise the championship banner at home against the Worcester Sharks that night. The defending Western Conference champion Toronto Marlies will play host to the Rochester Americans the very next night as the two finalists from last season open the new campaign.
- If you're in the Norfolk area and want to cheer on some of the players from last year's championship team, the Syracuse Crunch visit on January 4 and 5, and again on March 29 and 30. While the luster of last season's championship may have worn off by then, the heroes from the postseason run can still use a good cheer or two.
- December 30 sees the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies meet up in the crisp outdoor air as part of the NHL Winter Classic's festivities as the Hockeytown Winter Festival is taking place in Detroit.
- January 20 sees the Hershey Bears take to the outdoors for a game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as part of the team's 75th AHL season. The Bears-Penguins game will be played at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
- The Bell Centre in Montreal will welcome the Hamilton Bulldogs as they play the Syracuse Crunch on November 9, and again on February 22 as the Bulldogs battle the Rochester Americans.
- Houston will play at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 18 against the Rockford IceHogs.
- The Norfolk Admirals will be the home team at Washington's Verizon Center as they play the Hershey Bears on December 6.
- Hamilton and the Toronto Marlies will play on Boxing Day at the Air Canada Center in Toronto.
- Raleigh, North Carolina's PNC Arena will play host to the Charlotte Checkers and Norfolk Admirals on January 6.
- The Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia will see the Adirondack Phantoms play the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on February 22.
- Lewiston, Maine has a host of games being played at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee as the Portland Pirates move up the highway to Lewiston. October 19 has the Pirates playing the Worcester Sharks. October 27 sees the Binghamton Senators in town. Worcester returns again on November 14. Manchester visits on December 14. Adirondack is the visiting team on December 29. And St. John's makes a trip to Lewiston on February 17.
- The Albany Devils will call Atlantic City, New Jersey home for a few dates this season. They will play Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Atlantic City on November 25, Bridgeport on January 13, Adirondack on January 20, and Hershey on February 24.
- January 27 and 28 sees Providence, Rhode Island host the AHL All-Star Classic as the Providence Bruins play host to the league.
- March 23, April 19, and April 20 are the three dates where all 30 teams will be on the ice for games.
There are your highlighted games and changes in the AHL for this upcoming season. Get yourself familiar with the teams and players as the AHL might be the best hockey North America has to offer this season if the NHL and NHLPA continue down the same path towards self-destruction.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!