Archive for the ‘AHL’ Category

The Calgary Flames are bringing their AHL affiliate home.

On Monday morning, the Flames announced that the AHL Board of Governors had approved the relocation of the organization’s affiliate from Stockton, Calif., and that the team will play its home games in Calgary next season.

There are few details about how the move will play out, including in which rink the team — currently the Stockton Heat — will be playing, or how the relocation may affect other Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp.-owned teams, such as the WHL’s Hitmen or NLL’s Roughnecks.

But the move does a couple things for both the Heat players and the Flames as a whole.

“Ultimately, we made the decision and if you look across the league there are a number of teams in the last 10 years that have moved their farm team closer to their NHL team,” said Heat general manager Brad Pascall. “We just felt your development plan can be even stronger by having it closer. The best way to summarize it is organizational synergies become that much stronger and ultimately that’s the reason for the move.”

It’s not hard to understand why moving the Heat closer to the Flames makes sense from a development perspective. It allows Flames coaches and management to get a better look at prospects while also making it significantly easier to call up players. In those situations, Heat players won’t need to drive to an airport and cross a border.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens — among other teams — have all moved their AHL affiliates closer to home in recent years, so there’s certainly a precedent.

“It’s the little things, too,” Pascall said. “If you’re a player, you have essentially one residence and you’re either going to practise at this time, at this location, or you’re going to practise at this time, at this location and your head every night is on the same pillow. It’s not in two different apartments in two different countries. It’s little things like that that I think go a long way.”

At this point, it remains unclear whether the Heat will play at the Scotiabank Saddledome. It’s already a busy rink, so one of the CSEC tenants may need to move.

But in a city with as insatiable an appetite for hockey as Calgary, it’s likely there will be an audience for the Flames’ prospects.

“Yeah, not just fans, but there’s going to be more eyes on players,” Pascall said. “Whether it’s fans or media but most importantly, our management staff and our coaching staff. It’s organizational synergy, and that’s the reason other teams around the league have done it and it’s why we’re doing this.”

The Heat called Stockton home since 2015 — although they played at the Saddledome during the 2020-21 pandemic-affected season — after stints in Glens Falls, N.Y. (2014-15) and Abbotsford, B.C. (2009-14).

The franchise’s era in Stockton is not over yet, as the Heat have advanced to the third round of the AHL playoffs. They blanked the visiting Colorado Eagles 5-0 in Game 1 of their best-of-five Pacific Division final series on Monday night. Justin Kirkland scored twice and Dustin Wolf made 23 saves to earn the first shutout of his professional career.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have settled a federal lawsuit filed by a former minor league assistant and his wife, who accused the team of negligently retaining a coach who sexually assaulted and harassed her and then retaliating against him for reporting the incident.

Lawyers for Jarrod and Erin Skalde announced the settlement in a news release Tuesday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

“We are pleased that the Penguins organization worked with us to resolve this dispute so that Jarrod and his family can move on with their lives,” said attorney David Fish, who represents Jarrod Skalde.

Erin Skalde said in a statement: “The events of the last three years have been deeply challenging, and my hope is to now move forward as an advocate for others.” She added that she hopes to be an instrument of change.

The Penguins said in a statement that team officials took prompt action when informed of the allegations in 2019.

“The Penguins and Skaldes have agreed to resolve all claims,” the team said in a statement. “Through this resolution, the Penguins hope to bring closure to the Skaldes, provide some measure of peace and continue to encourage and promote a culture of openness, accountability and respect at all levels of professional sports.”

Jarrod and Erin Skalde sued the Penguins nearly a year ago in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, alleging former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Clark Donatelli molested Erin Skalde during an outing on a road trip in 2018. The team is the American Hockey League affiliate of the Penguins and is run by the NHL club.

They also alleged current Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin, who was GM for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and assistant GM for the Penguins at the time, asked Jarrod Skalde to keep the reason for Donatelli’s termination quiet and that the team punished Skalde for reporting the assault and later terminated his position under the guise of pandemic-related staff cuts.

Guerin said last year: “When I learned of these allegations, I promptly brought them to Pittsburgh Penguins senior management. The allegations were quickly investigated. I emphatically deny anything to the contrary.” The Wild released a statement last year saying the team spoke with Guerin and supported him.

“I am glad that this has been resolved and my hope is I can move forward with my professional coaching career and personal life,” Jarrod Skalde said in a statement Tuesday.

The Associated Press does not typically identify those who say they were sexually assaulted, but Fish said recently the family was fine with it because the matter had already been made public.

Erin Skalde, the wife of a former Pittsburgh Penguins minor league assistant coach who was allegedly sexually assaulted by her husband’s colleague, is about to file a lawsuit against the coach and the Penguins ownership group, said a law firm representing Skalde.

Former Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin, who is now the general manager of the Minnesota Wild, will also be named as a defendant, according to a statement released Tuesday morning by Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, the Chicago law firm representing Skalde.

The statement said the lawsuit is expected to be filed in state court in Rhode Island where the alleged abuse occurred, and will name as defendants the Penguins, Clark Donatelli, Guerin, and Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ronald Burkle.

“The lawsuit will state that sexual abuse took place on a team road trip to Providence, Rhode Island on November 11, 2018, and that the team’s handling of the incident included Jarrod being told to keep quiet by organization management, Erin being called a liar and never being interviewed as part of the team’s investigation, along with Jarrod being fired from the organization,” the statement said.

“Additionally, the Penguins organization has made public comments that show an utter disregard for the experience of a sexual assault victim and have retraumatized her multiple times.”

The allegations against the Penguins first came to public attention after Jarrod Skalde filed a lawsuit on Nov. 3, 2020, in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania alleging that Donatelli, the former head coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, had assaulted his wife, Erin, when the three of them were in a car together during a team road trip in Providence, R.I.

Jarrod said that seven months later, when the incident was brought to the attention of Guerin, who was the Penguins’ assistant general manager at the time, Guerin told him to keep quiet about the alleged assault.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Guerin, the general manager of the Wild since August 2019, was appointed assistant general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team in March. Guerin is also being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport after Skalde filed a complaint on Oct. 5.

SafeSport investigators have not yet interviewed her about her complaint. If investigators find Guerin violated the centre’s code of conduct, Guerin could face a temporary or permanent suspension from working with the U.S. Olympic program.

Jarrod has alleged in his lawsuit that the NHL team violated Pennsylvania’s whistleblower laws and fired him on May 5, 2020, because he complained to the team about the alleged assault of his wife. Jarrod and the Penguins were recently in settlement talks but failed to reach an agreement.

Joel Bouchard has left the Montreal Canadiens organization.

The Anaheim Ducks announced Friday that Bouchard will be the new head coach of their AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls.

Bouchard guided the Laval Rocket to an 83-67-24 record over the past three campaigns. Last season, the Rocket won the Canadian Division and had the AHL’s second-highest points percentage (.694).

“The opportunity to bring in Joel Bouchard as head coach of our American Hockey League club was something that we could not pass up,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. “Joel has a strong track record coaching and developing players at the professional, junior, and international level. This is the primary focus for us, and Joel fits the bill perfectly.”

Bouchard was seen as a leading candidate for the Canadiens’ head coaching job. Interim bench boss Dominique Ducharme recently guided the team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The Seattle Kraken will use the Charlotte Checkers as their American Hockey League affiliate for the first season of the newest NHL franchise.

The Kraken reached an agreement with the Florida Panthers to share Charlotte as their affiliate for the 2021-22 season. Seattle has been awarded an AHL franchise in Palm Springs, California, but delays in arena construction have pushed the debut of that team until the fall of 2022.

“The AHL plays such a key role in the development of NHL players,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. “This is a very important decision for the long-term success of our organization.”

Seattle is expected to supply the Checkers with eight to 12 players, some likely coming from the pool of 30 players the Kraken will select during the expansion draft in July. Others are likely to be free agent signings made by Seattle that are signed to either AHL deals or two-way deals.

At this time, the sharing agreement is expected to just be for one season with construction underway on the arena for Seattle’s AHL affiliate in the Coachella Valley.

“This agreement helps ensure we can loan all of our prospects to one place rather than multiple locations,” Francis said. “We would like to thank both Charlotte and the Florida Panthers for their cooperation to make this happen.”

The Vancouver Canucks‘ AHL affiliate will be playing closer to home starting next season.

The AHL’s board of governors approved relocation for the Canucks-owned franchise from Utica, New York, to Abbotsford, British Columbia, beginning in the 2021-22 campaign, the league announced.

Vancouver’s new affiliate will play out of Abbotsford Center, but the details of the team’s name, logo, and brand are still unknown.

In a corresponding move, the AHL franchise owned by the New Jersey Devils will move from Binghamton, New York, to Utica beginning next season.

The Utica Comets announced a 10-year affiliation deal with the Devils. The organization will keep the same name but will reveal new jersey designs and colors later in the year.

The Vancouver Canucks are moving their AHL team from Utica to Abbotsford, beginning next season.

Details of a partnership between the Canucks and the City of Abbotsford are being finalized, the team said, and relocation will be subject to AHL Board of Governors approval on May 6 — but that’s essentially a rubber stamp.

“With momentum starting to build, we are pleased to confirm our goal to bring our AHL franchise and Canucks prospects home to the City of Abbotsford,” said Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini in a media release. “The move would bring significant opportunities for both our team and the community and it would begin a new chapter, bringing Canucks hockey to even more fans throughout the Lower Mainland.”

The team would play out of the Abbotsford Centre, which can hold 8,500 fans for hockey, and was home to the failed Abbotsford Heat franchise from 2009 to 2014.

Two issues that plagued the Heat won’t be a problem for a new franchise. First, the team would be affiliated with the Canucks instead of the rival Calgary Flames. Second, there are many more AHL teams located on the west coast than before.

The plan is for the team to play in the AHL’s Pacific Division, which includes six teams in California.

A new name, brand, and logo will be unveiled for the franchise, the Canucks revealed.

The Canucks have been affiliated with the Utica Comets since 2013. Utica is expected to become the new AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils, given that Comets president Robert Esche registered “Utica Devils” as a trademark.

“We are extremely grateful for the outstanding partnership and working relationship we’ve had with Robert Esche and the entire Utica Comets family,” said Aquilini. “Since 2013, we have worked closely to create a first-class hockey environment for our players and Utica’s great fans. Utica has one of the best, most energetic hockey environments in North America. We wish Robert, his staff and the incredible Comets fans nothing but success in the future.”

While Utica was well situated to limit travel for the Comets, no other NHL team had their AHL affiliate located further away from home than did the Canucks. The move follows a growing trend across the NHL to have its AHL affiliates located nearby.

Canucks management will be able to view their prospects more easily, as will fans, for that matter. Calling up players can also be done with more ease, as it will require just a quick drive on Highway 1 instead of a cross-continent flight.

The American Hockey League won’t host a traditional playoff bracket this season due to COVID-19 protocols, president and CEO Scott Howson announced Thursday.

Each of the league’s five divisions was provided the chance to independently conduct its own playoff format, but only the Pacific Division will do so.

Here are the teams involved in the Pacific Division’s postseason bracket and their corresponding NHL affiliates in order of the current standings.

AHL TEAMNHL AFFILIATE
Henderson Silver KnightsVegas Golden Knights
San Diego GullsAnaheim Ducks
Bakersfield CondorsEdmonton Oilers
San Jose BarracudaSan Jose Sharks
Colorado EaglesColorado Avalanche
Tucson RoadrunnersArizona Coyotes
Ontario ReignLos Angeles Kings

The 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs were also canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The Charlotte Checkers, the Carolina Hurricanes’ farm team, won the most recent championship in 2019.

Jason Spezza is helping to ensure Toronto Marlies players get paid.

Spezza led an initiative in which a group of Toronto Maple Leafs players pooled together money to make a contribution to their AHL counterparts.

“I have to give Spezz a lot of credit on this one,” captain John Tavares said when asked about the contribution, according to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox. “He kind of brought it to the forefront from the leadership standpoint, and the leadership group thought it was really important.

“I think we know – society as a whole, but certainly in our game – how tough a year it is for so many. So, within the organization, we wanted to make sure we try to take care of our own.”

The 37-year-old Spezza is on a league-minimum contract this season but has totaled nearly $89 million in career earnings, according to CapFriendly.

An AHL player’s minimum salary for the 2020-21 campaign is $51,000, per the league’s CBA. However, due to a shortened season and minimal gate revenue, players’ salaries have been reduced by 52%.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe had high praise for his club’s actions.

“It just, first of all, speaks to the character of our group, but I think it also just speaks to the recognition of the fact, through this pandemic, people in all walks of life are going through some tough times, and the hockey business as well at different levels,” Keefe said.

“If you’re a guy playing on an AHL contract, it’s a challenge to get through this period,” Keefe continued. “I don’t know a whole lot about it, but not surprised that our players have the character that they do and step up.”

The American Hockey League board of governors approved the structural framework for a season to start Feb. 5, the league announced Wednesday.

Several details remain unresolved, but the league’s confirmed start date allows teams and their NHL partners to better prepare for the upcoming campaign.

The AHL paused its 2019-20 season last March and officially canceled the campaign’s remainder and Calder Cup playoffs in May. It was the first time since 1936 that the Calder Cup wasn’t awarded.

The NHL is set to begin its 56-game schedule on Jan. 13. Though nothing is official, it’s likely the AHL will also use a shortened season.