AHL 2020-21 Season Opening Delayed

The AHL has announced that the planned AHL 2020-21 season has been delayed until February 5th, 2021.

AHL Season Open Moved Again

AHL President and CEO Scott Howson made the announcement after a meeting of the Board of Governors. The league has been in constant consultation with its member clubs and with local authorities in all 31 team cities. With the unpredictability of the COVID-19 public health crisis, plans for reopening must remain flexible. The AHL is a league that is very dependent on gate revenues, even more than the NHL. Opening the season without fans would be an extreme hardship for most teams, though one that remains possible. Much is going to depend on the actions of municipal, state/provincial, and federal governments.

“Everything on the Table”

That’s a quote from Howson, according to Stephen Whyno writing for the Associated Press. And it makes sense – the league is intimately tied to the NHL as the main “feeder league” for prospects. The AHL originally hoped for a December restart, but as the NHL’s January 1st target seems more unlikely, the AHL has followed suit. There are a variety of plans being discussed in both leagues.

We’ve done plenty ourselves, both for the NHL and AHL, but certainty is hard to come by. Not only are there differences in team stability – higher in the NHL than AHL – but in jurisdictions. A lot is going to rely on those governments coordinating a response and how well the virus is contained. For now, the AHL 2020-21 season remains more speculation and hope than fact.

The league has acknowledged that some teams might even sit out for a year, avoiding pay altogether. The ECHL, one tier below the AHL, has already said this will happen in their league. One team, the Atlanta Gladiators, has made all their roster players free agents to sign on with other teams. Additionally, 13 of the remaining 25 teams are planning to start play on December 11th. The other 12 should start January 15th, joining in with the already-started league. Standings will be based on win percentage rather than points.

That hybrid solution is unlikely to fly in higher leagues, but this season? You never know.

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