The Associated Press’s Stephen Whyno spoke with AHL president Scott Howson and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly regarding the AHL’s decision to delay the start of their 2020-2021 season until February 5th:
“This gives us the best chance to have a significant season with fans in the building and we’ll just see what happens here in the next two months,” Howson said by phone after the AHL’s Board of Governors voted to approve the Feb. 5 start date. “We’re going to be flexible and we’re going to do everything we can to play.”
The AHL is the top minor league affiliate for the NHL, which is targeting a Jan. 1 start for the season. 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 NHL, they’re at sometime in January,” Howson said. “We aren’t tied directly to what the NHL does, but we want to be somewhat in sync, so Feb. 5 seemed like a good place even if there’s going to be a little longer cap than usual between the two leagues starting.”
No North American sport is more dependent on attendance than hockey, and the attempt to get some fans into buildings is a big reason for the February start. Howson pointed out that a vast majority of jurisdictions with AHL teams would not have allowed any fans as recently as a month ago, and there are hopes that changes by the middle of the winter.
“We’re moving in the right direction in some of our markets,” Howson said. “Hopefully that trend continues.”