The NHL and AHL is often a “like father, like son” relationship in which the two try to mirror each other as closely as possible. Coming on the heels of the newly announced NHL All Star Game format that will be sweeping through Nashville in late-January the AHL has followed suit with a brand new format for their AHL All-Star Classic.
Press Release via AHL:
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and Chief Executive Officer David Andrews announced today a new game format for the 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic, scheduled for January 31 and February 1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, N.Y.
The 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Challenge will take place on the evening of Feb. 1. Instead of a traditional 60-minute game, the league’s all-stars will be divided into four teams, one representing each of the league’s divisions (Atlantic, North, Central, Pacific). The teams will then play a round-robin tournament featuring six games of nine minutes each; the first half of each game will be played at 4-on-4, and the second half at 3-on-3. The two teams with the best records at the end of the round-robin tournament will face off for the championship, a six-minute game played at 3-on-3.
“We have been working on developing an All-Star Challenge concept since last spring, and this tournament idea is the result of many discussions with players, coaches and general managers around the league,” said Andrews. “We all believe that this will be an exciting showcase event for our players and fans alike as we highlight the skill, energy and excitement that has been a hallmark of the AHL for 80 years.”
Rosters for each team will be composed of 11 skaters and two goaltenders each. All 30 AHL teams will be represented by at least one All-Star player. The coach for each team will be the AHL head coach whose team has the highest points percentage in each division at the end of play on Dec. 31.
The 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 31 will keep its traditional format, with the All-Stars from the two Eastern Conference divisions squaring off against the All-Stars from the two Western Conference divisions in seven skills events.
Tickets for the two-day 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic are on sale now. Ticket prices range from $40-60 and can be purchased either in person at the Syracuse Crunch office located in the War Memorial Arena at 800 South State Street in Syracuse, by calling (315) 473-4444 or through all Ticketmaster outlets.
The 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic in Syracuse will feature the top young talent in the American Hockey League: Of the 679 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 93 percent have competed in the National Hockey League, including Patrice Bergeron, Ben Bishop, Troy Brouwer, Ryan Callahan, Zdeno Chara, Logan Couture, Jiri Hudler,Tyler Johnson, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Miller, Gustav Nyquist, Zach Parise, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Bobby Ryan, Cory Schneider, Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, P.K. Subban and Mats Zuccarello.
In operation since 1936 and celebrating its 80th-anniversary season in 2015-16, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 14th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2014-15.
In plain text that’s all sort of bamboozling. Luckily for you, and me, the AHL has created the following handy dandy infograph to make things a little easier to understand:
In a nutshell, each division will have its own team and all divisions will get to play against one-another in a round robin format. The games are nine-minutes long with the first half being played four-on-four and the second half being played three-on-three. The top two divisions that come out with the best standing after those games are played will duke it out to win this year’s newly christened AHL All-Star Challenge. The Championship round will be six-minutes of three-on-three. You can listen to AHL President and CEO David Andrews discuss the new changes on Sirius XM’s NHL GameDay right here.
The short and sweet of it for me is that this, like the NHL’s updated format, is a welcome change. It’s different. It’s fun. But, no matter how many times they’ll attempt to recalibrate the All-Star Game, it is still the All-Star Game. Hockey being the contact sport that it is makes watching the All-Star Game something of an alien experience. No one wants to get hurt. Therefore no one ever really attempts to adequately defend. Changing formats isn’t exactly going to change that. It’s just going to make watching the same old high scoring All-Star hockey feel quicker because it is being segmented into small slices.
Thoughts on the recent changes to the NHL and AHL All-Star Game? Do changes like this make you more or less excited to watch?