Minor League Hockey is not an essential business.
On Monday, the American Hockey League (AHL), the NHL’s premier minor league organization, announced it would be suspending operations for the remainder of the season.
In a statement, AHL president and CEO, David Andrews said:
“After a lengthy review process, the American Hockey League has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions.
The League’s operational focus has turned toward actively preparing for the 2020-21 season.
We are very grateful to the National Hockey League and its teams for their support and leadership in navigating through the challenges faced over the past two months.
The AHL continues to place paramount importance on the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans and all of their families, and we all look forward to returning to our arenas in 2020-21.”
The decision includes suspending the remaining regular-season games, the AHL playoffs, and the Calder Cup, the AHL Championship.
The league standings froze on March 12, when the AHL and NHL indefinitely suspended their seasons. At the time, the Milwaukee Admirals held the highest points percentage. They are now the official 2020 AHL champions.
While NHL players will be paid through the remainder of their season, the AHL has yet to release an official statement saying that their players will be paid through the season, which was supposed to end in June.
In a minor league that financially relies on season ticket holders and fans in seats, the coronavirus presents a new kind of challenge for the AHL.
The prospect of a league without fans may be economically devastating for teams who rely on fans to keep their doors open.
Even though this AHL season is over, that does not mean AHL athletes can sit idly by.
This morning, the Toronto Marlies, The Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, stated that some of their players “will join the Maple Leafs roster if permitted by the National Hockey League’s resumption of play protocol.”
But it’s not just the Marlies who could call up prospects. Any AHL standout could be acquired by their parent teams. Utica Comets winger, Reid Boucher, and the AHL’s leader in points, Sam Anas, could see time on the Canucks and Wild, respectively, if the NHL season resumes.
Even though the AHL finally canceled their season, one has to wonder, what took them so long?
The league’s news comes on the heels of other minor leagues suspending their season. The NHL’s AA affiliate league, the ECHL, closed its doors in March. The NBA G League suspended their season in march, too. And, who could forget the XFL folding in April.
Additionally, Minor League Baseball indefinitely suspended their summer season. While there is a possibility for the league to return with the MLB, the reality of a minor league baseball game being played this season remains unlikely.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that minor league sports are not an essential business. Time will tell whether or not professional sports are necessary this season, too.