The American Hockey League today unveiled a new conference and division alignment and announced the Calder Cup Playoff format for the 2003-04 season. The announcement came from the AHL Board of Governors' annual meeting on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
The AHL has returned to a four-division, two-conference setup, with seven teams in each division:
EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlantic Division Hartford Wolf Pack (NYR) Lowell Lock Monsters (CAR/CGY) Manchester Monarchs (LA) Portland Pirates (WSH) Providence Bruins (BOS) Springfield Falcons (PHX) Worcester IceCats (STL)
East Division Albany River Rats (NJ) Binghamton Senators (OTT) Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NYI) Hershey Bears (COL/TB) Norfolk Admirals (CHI) Philadelphia Phantoms (PHI) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT)
WESTERN CONFERENCE North Division Cleveland Barons (SJ) Hamilton Bulldogs (MTL) Manitoba Moose (VAN) Rochester Americans (BUF) St. John's Maple Leafs (TOR) Syracuse Crunch (CBJ) Toronto Roadrunners (EDM)
West Division Chicago Wolves (ATL) Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (ANA) Grand Rapids Griffins (DET) Houston Aeros (MIN) Milwaukee Admirals (NSH) San Antonio Rampage (FLA) Utah Grizzlies (DAL)
At the conclusion of the 2003-04 regular season, the top five teams in each of the four divisions will qualify for the Calder Cup 2004 Playoffs, allowing once again for at least two-thirds of National Hockey League teams' prospects to gain valuable postseason experience.
In each division, the fourth-place team will face the fifth-place team in a best-of-three qualifying round. Each subsequent round will be a best-of-seven. In the division semifinals, the first-place team will face the qualifying winner and the second-place team will face the third-place team from each division. The division finals will match the semifinal winners within each division, with those winners advancing to their respective conference final. Conference final winners will advance to the Calder Cup 2004 Finals.