June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on stage at the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The NHL is in danger of yet another lockout, but the AHL is prepared to keep going as planned, and could serve as a haven for younger NHL talent without a place to play.
Just eight years after the NHL lost its 2004-05 season, the NHL is in danger of yet another labor dispute. That's bad news for NHL fans, but possibly the best thing that could happen for the minor-league AHL, who might see an influx of younger NHL players looking for ice time. The 30-team league releases its schedule today.
The AHL saw major attendance boosts across the board in 2004-05 without the NHL operating as players such as Jason Spezza - who won the league scoring title and MVP award - flocked to the league. Obviously, nobody wants a lockout - especially not fringe minor-league players - but the AHL is more than prepared to step in should the highest tier of hockey not start as scheduled.
Players on two-way contracts would play in the AHL, as well as other players under the age of 22, who were considered AHL-eligible during the 2004-05 lockout. Over 88 percent of NHL players have passed through the AHL at some point or another.