American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced today that the League's Board of Governors has unanimously approved the expansion of the League and the addition of six new member clubs for the 2001-2002 AHL season.
Applications for membership were approved today for the following six new member clubs:
Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg, Manitoba) Milwaukee Admirals (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Utah Grizzlies (Salt Lake City, Utah) Grand Rapids Griffins (Grand Rapids, Michigan) Chicago Wolves (Chicago, Illinois) Houston Aeros (Houston, Texas)
Additionally, the League's Board of Governors has unanimously approved the transfer of ownership of the Kentucky Thoroughblades to the San Jose Sharks L.P. The Board also approved unanimously a request to transfer the franchise to the Gund Arena in Cleveland for the start of the 2001-2002 season. Gund Arena is also the home of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and seats a capacity crowd of 19,941.
This expansion, in addition to the previous announcement of new franchises in Manchester (N.H.) and Bridgeport (Conn.), will bring the AHL to a membership of 30 franchises with 27 of those franchises expected to be active for the 2001-02 season. It is the intention of the league to activate all 30 franchises for the 2002-03 playing season.
"This strategic expansion will further enhance the American Hockey League position as the primary player development league for National Hockey League clubs," said Andrews. "It will provide further strength to the AHL brand and enhance sales and marketing potential through the addition of six strong new markets in a significantly expanded geography. The League becomes stronger in Canada and in the midwest, while enjoying the future growth opportunities provided by expanding its footprint westward."
With the addition of the new markets, AHL attendance is projected to exceed seven million fans next season. In addition, the expansion will enable the AHL to build on a television broadcast schedule that included over 160 live telecasts during the 2000-2001 season, while significantly impacting the growth of the AHL Internet Network at theahl.com, which registered in excess of 16 million page views over the course of the 2000-2001 season.
"We welcome the six new members with great enthusiasm," said AHL Executive Committee Chairman Steve Donner. "This expansion launches an exciting new era for the AHL. Dave Andrews, our President and CEO, is to be commended for his leadership and vision in positioning our League for the long term, and managing this expansion process."
The Professional Hockey Players Association has supported the expansion concept. "Our membership has enthusiastically endorsed this expansion of the AHL," said PHPA Executive Director Larry Landon. "The stability and growth potential which the expanded AHL provides for the future is of great value to our players."
The AHL serves as the top player development League for the National Hockey League with each of the 30 NHL clubs developing their top prospects in the AHL next season. More than 225 players have taken to the ice in both Leagues this season, while nearly 75% of all players to compete in the NHL this season are AHL graduates.
AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE 2001-02 Albany River Rats (New Jersey) Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders) Chicago Wolves (TBA) Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (Anaheim/Detroit) Cleveland (San Jose) Grand Rapids Griffins (Ottawa) Hamilton Bulldogs (Edmonton) Hartford Wolf Pack (N.Y. Rangers) Hershey Bears (Colorado) Houston Aeros (Minnesota) Lowell Lock Monsters (Carolina) Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles) Manitoba Moose (TBA) Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville) Norfolk Admirals (Chicago) Philadelphia Phantoms (Philadelphia) Portland Pirates (Washington) Providence Bruins (Boston) Quebec Citadelles (Montreal) Rochester Americans (Buffalo) Saint John Flames (Calgary) Springfield Falcons (Phoenix/Tampa Bay) St. John's Maple Leafs (Toronto) Syracuse Crunch (Columbus) Utah Grizzlies (Dallas) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh) Worcester IceCats (St. Louis)