Not only has the AHL suspended their season, but now will go a step further. The league announced today that the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign has been canceled, there will be no playoffs and no Calder Cup awarded this year. AHL President David Andrews released a statement:
After a lengthy review process, the American Hockey League has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions.
The League’s operational focus has turned toward actively preparing for the 2020-21 season.We are very grateful to the National Hockey League and its teams for their support and leadership in navigating through the challenges faced over the past two months.
The AHL continues to place paramount importance on the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans and all of their families, and we all look forward to returning to our arenas in 2020-21.
It is important to note that the AHL and NHL are technically independent operations even though they do work closely with each other. This announcement does not mean a similar one is coming from the NHL, though obviously it is a possibility as they traverse the unknown waters of the coronavirus outbreak.
This is the first time the Calder Cup will not be awarded since it was introduced in 1937. The Charlotte Checkers, last season’s Calder Cup winners, will hold the title for another year.
For minor league players, this now makes the next few months even more confusing. Though they will not be returning to play in the AHL, they could still potentially be recalled by their NHL affiliate to play in games should the season resume, or at least skate with the team as a “Black Ace.” Those are the players brought up to play and travel with the NHL club during the playoffs just in case of injury. Obviously that would be dependent on there actually being an NHL playoffs, something that is not certain at this point.
Unfortunately, the question now becomes what happens with the 2020-21 season. Andrews told Sportsnet radio that “it might be something dramatically different than what it looks like now” and told Michael Traikos of Postmedia that it would be unlikely the league would be able to play if there were no fans allowed in the stands. The AHL is almost entirely gate-driven, meaning without the revenue generated from ticket sales they wouldn’t be able to afford to stage games–at least, not an entire season’s worth.