What is the American Hockey League?
It's the second-best hockey league in North America, home to the all-important NHL farm teams.
For those familiar with baseball's minor league system, the status of the AHL is roughly comparable to "Triple-A" ball.
How much are tickets?
There's a wide range of prices around the league. In most markets, the cheapest ticket will cost $10-to-$25, while the best seats would cost $25-to-$50.
Who are the players?
Most AHL players are contracted to National Hockey League teams, and can be "called up" to join the NHL roster at any time.
The majority are either:
1) Entry-level players targeted for development and growth, in the hope that they will become NHL regulars.
2) Older players who didn't make the NHL cut, but are available to the NHL team in case of an injury or other roster opening.
Why aren't there more veterans on an AHL team?
Because of its commitment to develop players for the NHL, the American League has rules ensuring ice time for rookies and prospects.
Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) dressed for a game, at least 13 must qualify as "development players."
Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer pro games (including AHL, NHL, IHL and European elite leagues) as of the start of the season, and one must have played in 320 or fewer pro games.
My NHL team has an overpaid, $6 million bum who hasn't come close to earning his salary. Why don't they send him to the AHL?
An NHL player with a "no movement" clause in his contract cannot be sent to the AHL.
Other contracts are structured to make AHL assignment more viable. An NHL player with a "one-way" contract earns the same salary whether he is assigned to play in the NHL or AHL. A player on a "two-way" contract earns a lesser salary if he is sent to the AHL.
Our number-one draft pick didn't make the NHL roster. Why isn't he in the AHL?
A junior-aged (under 20) player with an NHL contract cannot be sent to the AHL unless he has already played four seasons of junior hockey. If he doesn't stick with the NHL roster he must be returned to his junior club. There have been occasional exceptions, particularly for players arriving from Europe.
(For more on this issue, see Rules Governing Junior Hockey Players in the NHL.)
How big is the AHL?
As of 2012-13, the American Hockey League has 30 teams, 26 in the United States and four in Canada, divided into two conferences and six divisions.
Each franchise is affiliated with an NHL team, and is supplied with prospects and veterans contracted by that team.
16 playoff teams vie for the Calder Cup, in a playoff bracket that has four rounds.
See below for a list of AHL franchises and locations.
Are the rules the same?
For the most part, the AHL adopts the rules of the NHL. Occasionally it will also do a trial run on a rule change being considered by the big league.
What's the history?
The AHL began in 1936, with a merger of Canadian-American Hockey League and International Hockey League.
Over the years, it has been a stage for spectacular performances by future NHL stars like Tomas Pelkanec, Jason Spezza, Brett Hull, Patrick Roy, Billy Smith, Larry Robinson, Gerry Cheevers, Tim Horton, Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk, and many more.
But the list of AHL greats includes those who spent most of their career in the minor leagues, such as Fred Glover (1948-68), Bill Sweeney (1957-69), and Peter White (1992-2005).
NHL coaches have also risen through the AHL, including Al Arbour and Don Cherry. Eddie Shore, the NHL Hall of Fame defenseman, owned and coached the Springfield Indians for over 25 years.
Where does the AHL play?
The American Hockey League is divided into two conferences, with three divisions in each conference. Here are the current franchises (as of 2012-13), listed by team name, location, and NHL affiliation:
Manchester, New Hampshire
Los Angeles Kings
Providence, Rhode Island
St. John's Ice Caps
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
San Jose Sharks
Glens Falls, New York
Albany, New York
New Jersey Devils
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Columbus Blue Jackets
Binghamton, New York
Syracuse, New York
Tampa Bay Lightning
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Lake Erie Monsters
Rochester, New York
Toronto Maple Leafs
Grand Rapids Griffins
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
Charlotte, North Carolina
Oklahoma City Barons
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
San Antonio Rampage
San Antonio, Texas
Cedar Park, Texas