AHL ready to reap benefits of another NHL lockout

Associated Press Modified: September 17, 2012 at 6:34 pm •  Published: September 17, 2012
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — As the owner of the American Hockey League's Syracuse Crunch, Howard Dolgon isn't enamored with another NHL lockout, even though it's good for business.

He's torn, understandably. He loves the business. But he knows what the NHL means to the game he loves.

"It makes it maybe easier to market our brand, but at the same time I think every owner in the league will tell you that we really don't want a lockout," Dolgon said Monday after perusing the NHL's website. "I think it is important to us for the NHL to be playing and the NHL to be healthy.

"But that's an issue that we don't have any control over."

Join the club.

The NHL locked the players out over the weekend when the collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. It's the NHL's fourth work stoppage in 20 years. Day 2 of the NHL lockout on Monday saw no changes from either side as talks between the league and the NHLPA remain unscheduled.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr have spoken informally since the lockout began, and may do so again on Tuesday. But nothing official will resume until at least Wednesday between Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. The two sides haven't met for face-to-face talks since last Wednesday.

Attention already has turned to alternative leagues like the AHL, where players will continue to train for the season and play the game. The AHL consists of 17 independently-owned franchises and another 13 owned by NHL clubs. It's the primary minor league of the NHL — nearly 90 percent of today's NHL players spent time in the A — and a safe haven these days for younger players on two-way contracts that remain eligible to play at the lower level.

Another prolonged NHL lockout like the one that forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season means better competition in AHL cities like Syracuse, increased attendance everywhere, and international media attention that it is simply not used to.

"The effect then was a window of opportunity for the American League to have a greater presence from a media perspective across North America and certainly more live television exposure, and to some extent an even stronger player pool than we normally have," longtime AHL president and CEO David Andrews said. "I'm anticipating that will be the case again this time."

The AHL's 77th regular season starts Oct. 12 — a day after the scheduled start of the NHL season — and training camps open in less than two weeks.

There's been movement toward the A already.

The Buffalo Sabres announced Monday that it had loaned 20 players to the Rochester Americans. Among them were forward Luke Adam, AHL rookie of the year for the 2010-11 season, and Marcus Foligno, who played 60 games for Rochester last season. On Saturday, the Philadelphia Flyers assigned 26 players, including Erik Gustafsson, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, to the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League.

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