SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

AHL prepares to welcome 6

The American Hockey League is expected to officially announce today that it will expand to include six former International Hockey League teams.

The IHL, which had a board of governors meeting scheduled for last Friday, was expected to shut down after 57 years of operation. Its remaining five teams would either fold or join other minor league hockey circuits.

The six IHL teams joining the AHL will pay a reduced expansion fee of $1 million, paid over 10 years at $100,000 a year. The AHL reduced its normal expansion fee, which was $2.5 million during the previous round of expansion and is now listed at $3 million.

"These are going concerns and strong businesses," said AHL President Dave Andrews of the IHL teams. "We essentially gave credit to each of these applicants. We don't feel we did anything to negatively impact franchise values or [future] expansion fees."

He said the IHL teams will all play in the same division and play 20 to 24 games against other AHL teams each season. The AHL will have at least 26 teams next year.

All of the teams in the AHL will have NHL affiliate agreements next season. The Houston Aeros, which were the sole IHL team last season that did not have an NHL parent club, has reached an affiliate agreement with the Minnesota Wild. The Manitoba Moose and Chicago Wolves, which had only partial affiliate agreements last season, will now be the top farm teams for the Vancouver Canucks and Atlanta Thrashers, respectively.

The other three teams joining the AHL are the Milwaukee Admirals, Utah Grizzlies and Grand Rapids (Mich.) Griffins, all of whom have ongoing NHL affiliate agreements.

IHL Commissioner Doug Moss could not comment on the final demise of the league because the league had not yet held its board of governors meeting, but he said the IHL's troubles stemmed from the early 1990s, when the league de-emphasized player development and began to spend lavishly on veteran players.

"We got away from the core business of minor league hockey," he said. "We've tried to correct that path."

When Moss joined the IHL in 1997, the league had 18 teams, and only a handful had NHL affiliations. Last season, the count was down to 11 teams, and 10 had agreements with NHL parent clubs.

"The philosophies of the [AHL and IHL] are one and the same now," Moss said.

The six teams joining the AHL will have to limit their rosters to six veterans with 260 games or more of pro experience, as per AHL rules, but no longer will be governed by a salary cap.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pushed for the AHL and IHL to consider a merger at a meeting with Moss and Andrews more than a year ago. He has since publicly distanced himself from the talks that led to the AHL expansion but has continued to voice support for consolidation in some form.

Andrews said he expects the NHL and the entire hockey world to be pleased.

"We've created something a lot of people in our industry have wanted to see happen for 30 to 40 years, which is one league servicing the development needs for all NHL clubs," he said.

SEPARATE WAYS FOR IHL
New AHL franchise NHL affiliation
Chicago Wolves Atlanta Thrashers
Grand Rapids Griffins Ottawa Senators
Houston Aeros Minnesota Wild
Milwaukee Admirals Nashville Predators
Manitoba Moose Vancouver Canucks
Utah Grizzlies Dallas Stars
 
Others Status
Cincinnati Cyclones Folding
Cleveland Lumberjacks Folding
Detroit Vipers Folding
Kansas City Blades Will fold or join
another league
Orlando Solar Bears Will fold or join
another league
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