Alright…not really, but I GENUINELY believe it’s time for a change. Allow me to explain. In my own personal opinion, there are a number of issues with the way the American Hockey League creates the regular-season schedule (respectfully of course). To keep this simple our hometown Utica Comets will be used for any specific team examples but from glancing at the league schedule as a whole there’s no team safe from the monotony of AHL scheduling.
To be frankly honest, I’m flat out tired of playing everyone already and we’re barely a quarter of the way through the season. The overall structure of the AHL schedule is the 2020-2021 NHL covid season with realigned divisions EVERY. YEAR. YEAR. AFTER. YEAR. One season of the *insert your NHL team of choice here* playing the same teams eight to ten times a year was enough. We’re midway through December and the Comets are gearing up to play Rochester for what feels like the 400th time this year; it’s only the sixth time on December 27th but you get the picture here. The thing is, it’s not only Rochester – it’s every team.
From November 17th to November 28th Utica played Rochester and Charlotte three times each including a back-to-back set with each… WHAT IS THAT?! Currently, the Comets are in a three straight game stretch against the Cleveland Monsters and are roughly a month away from playing the Syracuse Crunch in four out of five games. I’m sorry, I really am, Rochester and Syracuse are our main rivals and I get it, but playing them this frequently wears off a decent amount of the shine. Don’t get me wrong, these are huge games where the points are incredibly valuable, but seeing them this often can get old fast unless we’re talking about a playoff series.
Why do I mention all of this? To put it lightly, I would love to see the Western Conference in action. Yes, the Comets right now are a fantastic club with legit championship potential, but a hypothetical Calder Cup Final being the one opportunity to see a team from the West simply is not enough. The East Coast Hockey League or ECHL, a level below the AHL travels more. What part of Utah is on the east coast? Short answer: none of it but they end up playing Orlando and Jacksonville, pick up what I’m putting down here? The two leagues the AHL is sandwiched between play all over, why shouldn’t this league?
There is so much talent on the west coast right now that some exposure to the east would bring a ton more excitement to the league and fan interest in some great players. In addition to that, is it really fair to ask players to have their first real traveling experience as professional hockey players when they finally make it to the NHL? That principle I’m sure has caused extra stress on some younger players throughout the years. Think about it, it’s your first night up in the show, and you have a cross country flight after playing a road game the day before down in The A with seven-hour bus rides both ways. That is a brutal way to experience what should be the most exciting moment of your career.
Without question, the answer to why teams don’t travel like this is most likely money. I get that but give me even a handful of games per year. After all, wouldn’t you love to experience the atmosphere inside the Adirondack Bank Center when the Abbotsford Canucks roll into town? For their sake let’s hope it isn’t a $3 beer Wednesday night.