Monday, 17 September 2018

California In 2020

The AHL announced today that the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic will finally find its way to California in a couple of years as the Ontario Reign will host the mid-season event at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California on January 26 and 27, 2020! The AHL's expansion to California has seen some bumps in the road with some of its markets, but the Ontario Reign have been one of the success stories for the league as they continually find themselves near the top of the league in attendance. Granting the game to the Reign seemed inevitable, and it appears that time has come in 2020 when the league could be flush with talent if there's a lockout in the NHL.

If there is any concern about people possibly not showing up for the game, I'd say you may be mistaken. In the 34 home games that Ontario played last season, they saw 274,300 fans cross through the turnstiles for an average of 8,068 per game - sixth-best in the AHL. If there are NHL players who are filling out AHL rosters in 2020, I'd expect the Citizens Business Bank Arena to be sold out for the AHL All-Star Classic.

If the lockout does happen, we could see the same phenomenon as we saw in 2012 when the NHL took the year off. Players like Ryan Johansen, Jeff Skinner, Brayden Schenn, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all found themselves playing hockey in the AHL as teams sent eligible players down to the farm as opposed to letting them sign in Europe. In 2004 when the NHL locked out its players, there was a major influx of talent sent to the AHL as players such as Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Michael Cammalleri, and Patrice Bergeron all found themselves riding the bus in the AHL. The added talent to the AHL saw attendance numbers spike in those cities, and there will certainly be some added flair to the All-Star Game if another work stoppage occurs.

The Reign certainly made an immediate splash in the southern California market in 2015-16 when the Manchester Monarchs were moved to Ontario by the Los Angeles Kings. Ontario would win the newly-formed Pacific Division with a 44–19–4–1 and they would advanced to the AHL Conference Finals before being eliminated by the Lake Erie Monsters. Thanks to the Los Angeles Kings continually signing veteran players, the Reign have been able to play at a high level with the Kings' top-end talent developing there. They have yet to post less than 36 wins in any season, and have made the playoffs all three seasons. The Reign have also consistently been near the top of the attendance stats for the last three seasons, and there's no reason to believe that trend will change this season or the next.

"Ontario has welcomed the AHL into its community with open arms, and we are very excited to bring our celebration of hockey's best young talent to southern California with our first All-Star Classic on the west coast," American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews stated in the announcement today. "We look forward to working with the Reign organization over the next 16 months to put together a world-class event."

As it has been done in past years, the AHL All-Star Skills Competition will go on Sunday, January 26. The AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony will happen on Monday, January 27 with the 2020 AHL All-Star Challenge taking place Monday evening. The actual All-Star Classic logo along with all the other accoutrements that happen that weekend will be announced at a later date as the event nears.

If you're planning a trip to California in January 2020, you might want to see if you can get down to Ontario for the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic! It should be a great game regardless of whether the NHL is playing or not!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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