American Hockey League pushes start of season back to Feb. 5

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The American Hockey League moved its projected start of next season back to Feb. 5 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, president and CEO Scott Howson announced Wednesday.

The AHL’s board of governors finalized that projected start date during a brief conference call. The AHL is the top minor league affiliate for the NHL, which is targeting a Jan. 1 start for the season.

“This gives us the best chance to have a significant season,” Howson said in a phone interview. “We’re going to be flexible and we’re going to do everything we can to play.”

A typical AHL season usually starts after the NHL gets underway. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he doesn’t expect the AHL announcement to affect the NHL’s planning.

Daly said the AHL has kept the NHL informed during its decision-making process and that general managers were briefed last week on the developments.

The AHL had previously said it would not begin play any earlier than Dec. 4. The ECHL — a tier below the AHL in North American minor league hockey — announced earlier in October it will start its season Dec. 11 with 13 of 26 teams participating right away.

ECHL teams in Atlanta and Norfolk, Virginia, voluntarily opted out of this season.

The NHL already canceled the Winter Classic scheduled for New Year’s Day and All-Star festivities set for late January because of no guarantee fans could attend. In making that announcement, the league said it had not altered its plans to start on or around Jan 1.

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