Following a meeting in Cleveland on October 4, 1936, officials from the International Hockey League and the Canadian-American Hockey League announce the formation of a combined circuit called the “International-American Hockey League” to begin play that fall.
International League teams in Cleveland, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Buffalo play in the Western Division, and Can-Am League teams in Springfield, Providence, New Haven and Philadelphia play in the Eastern Division. League presidents John D. Chick (West) and Maurice Podoloff (East) continue to head up their respective divisions.
The Buffalo Bisons last only 11 games before withdrawing from the league in December of 1936, citing financial hardships due to having to play their home games in Niagara Falls, Ont. The Syracuse Stars win the first International-American Hockey League title by defeating the Philadelphia Ramblers in the championship series.
In 1937-38, Syracuse’s Jack Markle leads the IAHL in scoring for the second year in a row. With Frank Brimsek allowing just 1.79 goals per game, the Providence Reds win the league championship as Fred “Bun” Cook earns the first of his seven titles as a head coach.
On June 28, 1938, the two founding leagues officially dissolve and the merger is completed, with Podoloff being elected the first President of the IAHL and Chick being named vice president. At the same meeting, the league admits the Hershey Bears as its newest member franchise.
The Cleveland Barons win the Calder Cup in 1938-39, and the league adds a ninth team the following year when the Indianapolis Capitals are granted membership. In July 1939, future Hall of Famer Eddie Shore, still active as a defenseman with the Boston Bruins, purchases the Springfield Indians, beginning an extraordinary tenure in the western Massachusetts city.
Providence wins the Calder Cup again in 1940. The IAHL drops the word “International” from its name before the 1940-41 season, officially becoming the American Hockey League. The Buffalo Bisons return to play when the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (“The Aud”) opens. The Cleveland Barons win the 1941 Calder Cup led by Les Cunningham, the league scoring champion and a five-time AHL All-Star.
In February 1942, the AHL holds an All-Star Game to raise funds for the war efforts in the United States and Canada. Springfield is forced out of its arena in 1942-43 when it is taken over by the United States Quartermaster for use during World War II; Eddie Shore moves his players to Buffalo and takes control of the Bisons franchise. Buffalo goalie Gordie Bell – just 17 years old – posts nine shutouts and leads the Bisons to the Calder Cup in 1943, their first of two straight titles.
The St. Louis Flyers join the AHL in 1944 and draw 13,384 fans for their inaugural game, setting a league record. Cleveland and Pittsburgh play what is still the highest-scoring game in AHL history, a 12-10 Barons win on March 17, 1945. Eddie Shore severs his partnership with Buffalo and purchases the New Haven Eagles in 1945, then returns to Springfield in 1946-47.
Cleveland Barons sniper Johnny Holota becomes the first player in AHL history to score 50 or more goals when he nets 52 during the 1946-47 season, and Phil Hergesheimer wins the scoring title with 92 points despite playing on a Philadelphia Rockets team that goes 5-52-7. A year later, Carl Liscombe (118) of the Providence Reds and Cliff Simpson (110) of the Indianapolis Capitals become the first pro players ever to top the 100-point mark.
The Buffalo Bisons set a single-game scoring mark in a 16-4 win over Philadelphia on November 14, 1948. St. Louis sets another attendance record during the 1949 postseason, as 15,331 fans pack the St. Louis Arena to see a semifinal game against Providence. Cleveland and Buffalo dominate the 1940’s with each winning three Calder Cup championships. The Barons win six division titles and go to the Calder Cup Finals five times in the decade.
The Cincinnati Mohawks join the AHL in 1949-50. Led by future Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Terry Sawchuk, the Indianapolis Capitals roll through the playoffs, winning eight games without a loss to claim their second Calder Cup championship.
A young Johnny Bower leads the Cleveland Barons to the 1951 Calder Cup. The Springfield franchise is on the move again, relocating to the new Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse in 1951-52. Head coach King Clancy, 30-goal scorer George Armstrong and star defensemen Tim Horton and Frank Mathers help the Pittsburgh Hornets to the Calder Cup in 1952. Maurice Podoloff, who had added responsibilities as commissioner of the Basketball Association of America (and later the NBA) since 1946, steps down as AHL president prior to the 1952-53 season.
The Cleveland Barons win the Calder Cup in 1953, defeating Pittsburgh, 1-0 in overtime, in Game 7 of the Finals on a goal from defenseman Bob Chrystal. George “Red” Sullivan records 89 assists for the Hershey Bears in 1953-54, a single-season record that still stands today. After three seasons in central New York, the Syracuse Warriors return to Springfield for the 1954-55 campaign.
The All-Star Game returns in October 1954, with a team of AHL stars facing the defending champion Cleveland Barons to raise money for a players’ emergency fund. Zellio Toppazzini wins the scoring title with 113 points and Johnny Bower captures the first of his three consecutive MVP awards in leading the Providence Reds to a Calder Cup title in 1955-56.
The Rochester Americans join the league in 1956-57 and promptly go to the Calder Cup Finals before losing to Cleveland. Player/coach Frank Mathers and business manager Baz Bastien move from Pittsburgh to Hershey in 1957-58 and lead the Bears to consecutive championships.
When the Quebec Aces are admitted to the league in August 1959, the AHL has its first true Canadian-based team.
The Springfield Indians open the 60’s by winning three straight Calder Cups and star center Bill Sweeney wins three straight AHL scoring titles, two feats that have yet to be duplicated. The Pittsburgh Hornets, who suspended operations when the Duquesne Gardens closed in 1956, return to the AHL in 1961-62 playing at the new Civic Arena.
Art Stratton enters the AHL record book with a nine-point game for the Buffalo Bisons in 1962-63. The Cleveland Barons win the last of their nine Calder Cup championships in 1964, defeating Quebec in the Finals. Rochester wins its first title in 1964-65, with future NHL coaches Al Arbour, Don Cherry and Gerry Cheevers leading the way on the ice. It would be the first of four straight Finals appearances for the Amerks, still an AHL record.
With eyes on a possible merger, the AHL and the Western Hockey League play an interlocking schedule in 1965-66, with each AHL club playing a home-and-home set against the WHL’s six teams (Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria). Buffalo’s Billy Dea ends his record ironman streak at 548 consecutive games played when he misses a game to attend his father’s funeral.
Springfield Indians GM Jack Butterfield is named interim president of the AHL in August 1966 and is formally elected a year later; he will go on to guide the league for nearly three decades. The Pittsburgh Hornets win the Calder Cup in 1967, their final act in the AHL before giving way to the NHL expansion Penguins the next season.
The Los Angeles Kings purchase Eddie Shore’s players from him in 1967-68 and rename his franchise the Springfield Kings. The AHL and WHL face each other again in regular-season play, but the two leagues do not merge and continue to operate independently. The Rochester Americans defeat Quebec to win their third Calder Cup in four years. Following the season, Cleveland Barons great Fred Glover retires to take over as head coach of the NHL’s Oakland Seals; Glover leaves the AHL as the league’s all-time leader in games played, goals, assists and points and with five Calder Cup championships to his credit.
Under the direction of general manager Sam Pollock, the Montreal Canadiens become the first NHL team to own and operate their AHL affiliate in the same market; the Voyageurs begin play at the Montreal Forum in 1969.
The Buffalo Bisons win their fifth and final Calder Cup in 1970, then cease operations as the NHL’s Sabres begin play. The 1970-71 Springfield Kings, led by Butch Goring and Billy Smith, become the first team in league history to win the Calder Cup after posting a losing record during the regular season; in the Finals, the Kings, coached by Johnny Wilson, defeat the Providence Reds, who are coached by Johnny’s younger brother Larry Wilson.
NHL expansion opens opportunities for new franchises and new markets in the AHL: in 1971-72, Montreal moves its operation to Halifax and wins the Calder Cup as the Nova Scotia Voyageurs; the Cincinnati Swords begin play as Buffalo’s AHL affiliate; and the AHL expands its geography to Virginia with the Richmond Robins and Tidewater Wings (Hampton/Norfolk). But the biggest headlines are made by the Boston Braves, who pack Boston Garden with an average of 11,255 fans per game in their first year.
Former teammates Willie Marshall and Mike Nykoluk both retire after the 1971-72 season, ending two of the most prolific careers in league history; Marshall finishes as the AHL’s all-time leader in goals (523), assists (852), points (1,375) and games played (1,205).
More changes in 1972-73, as the New Haven Nighthawks begin play and the Cleveland Barons move to Jacksonville mid-season. The Cincinnati Swords are the class of the league, rolling to the 1973 Calder Cup following a 54-win regular season; the Cup-clinching game, played at the Aud in Buffalo, draws 15,019 fans.
In 1974-75, Rochester’s Doug Gibson becomes the first player ever to lead the AHL in goals, assists and points in the same season. The Springfield Kings become the Springfield Indians again as Eddie Shore resumes control of the franchise; the Indians finish fourth in the division but defeat Providence, Rochester and New Haven to win another championship. A year later, Shore sells the team, ending an era in Springfield hockey.
Nova Scotia wins back-to-back Calder Cup titles in 1976 and 1977, and with the Montreal Canadiens winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, it marks the first two times an organization captures the Calder and Stanley Cups in the same season.
President Jack Butterfield navigates the AHL through difficult times in the decade, and the league survives the loss of markets to NHL expansion and the appearance (and disappearance) of the World Hockey Association and the North American Hockey League. After just six teams play in 1976-77, the AHL adds franchises over the next three years in Portland, Maine; Binghamton, N.Y.; Moncton, N.B.; and Glens Falls, N.Y.
AHL teams begin a tradition of hosting exhibitions against clubs from the Soviet Union in 1977-78, as Dynamo Moscow visits six league arenas. The Hershey Bears’ schedule is disrupted late in the 1978-79 season when Hersheypark Arena becomes a shelter in the aftermath of the nuclear accident at nearby Three Mile Island. The Maine Mariners follow their 1978 Calder Cup championship with another in 1979, becoming the only team in AHL history to win the title in each of its first two seasons.
With the Winter Olympics about to take place up the road in Lake Placid during the 1979-80 season, the Adirondack Red Wings host exhibitions against the national teams from the United States, West Germany, Sweden and Finland. The Hershey Bears win the Calder Cup in 1980, and Adirondack follows in 1981 in just its second season in the league.
New Haven’s quadruple-overtime win over Rochester in the first round of the 1982 playoffs breaks a 44-year-old AHL record for the longest game. With prospects from both the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs, the New Brunswick Hawks finish with the AHL’s best record in 1981-82 and go on to win the Calder Cup. The Binghamton Whalers’ Ross Yates (125 points) edges the St. Catharines Saints’ Bruce Boudreau (122) for the 1982-83 scoring title. Under head coach Mike Keenan, Rochester defeats Maine for the 1983 Calder Cup; a year later, Maine beats Rochester to earn its third championship in seven seasons.
The 1984-85 Baltimore Skipjacks win a league-record 16 consecutive games and reach the Calder Cup Finals, but they fall to the Sherbrooke Canadiens and their 19-year-old rookie goaltender Patrick Roy, fresh out of junior hockey. Paul Gardner follows up a 130-point campaign with 112 points in 1985-86, becoming the first player in over 20 years to win consecutive AHL scoring titles. That same year Adirondack, led by head coach Bill Dineen, captures its second Calder Cup.
The AHL institutes a shootout to break ties in 1986-87. Brett Hull explodes into the AHL, winning the Dudley “Red” Garrett Award as the league’s top rookie; Hull notches 50 goals with the Moncton Golden Flames in his only AHL season. On December 5, 1987, Rochester’s Darcy Wakaluk becomes the first AHL goalie ever to score a goal. The AHL drops the shootout in favor of awarding a point for an overtime loss in 1987-88. Hershey wins the Calder Cup, rolling through the postseason unbeaten (12-0) with four-game sweeps of Binghamton, Adirondack and Fredericton.
The 1988-89 Sherbrooke Canadiens help rewrite the league’s scoring records, thanks to rookie Stephan Lebeau – who posts 134 points and 70 goals – and Benoit Brunet, who sets a rookie record with 76 assists. But it’s Adirondack that closes out the decade with its third championship in nine years, along the way becoming the second team in AHL history to erase an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series; Adam Graves scores the OT winner in Game 7 to complete the semifinal comeback over Hershey.
The AHL enters the 1990’s with the Springfield Indians winning back-to-back championships, as the New York Islanders’ affiliate in 1990 and as the Hartford Whalers’ affiliate in 1991 – defeating Rochester in the Finals both times. Toronto moves its affiliate to St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1991-92, and the Maple Leafs and head coach Marc Crawford promptly go to the Calder Cup Finals, where they lose to Adirondack and its head coach Barry Melrose in a memorable seven-game series in which the road team wins every game.
The Binghamton Rangers are the story of the 1992-93 regular season, losing just 13 of 80 games while forward Don Biggs sets the league’s single-season scoring mark with 138 points. But the Rangers are upset by Rochester in the second round of the playoffs, and the Cape Breton Oilers ride the inconceivable hot streak of Bill McDougall to the Calder Cup championship: McDougall smashes Calder Cup records by posting 26 goals and 52 points in just 16 games during the 1993 postseason.
After the Maine Mariners relocate to Providence in 1992-93, the Baltimore Skipjacks move to Portland in 1993-94 and the Pirates win the Calder Cup behind playoff MVP Olaf Kolzig. After 28 years as league president, Jack Butterfield retires from the position and is replaced by David Andrews, GM of the ’93 champion Cape Breton Oilers.
The AHL adopts roster rules prior to the 1994-95 season that put a sharper focus on its role as the top development league for the NHL. The puck drops for new teams in Springfield (Falcons), Worcester (IceCats) and Syracuse (Crunch). The AHL All-Star Game – the first such event in 35 years – is played in front of a sell-out crowd at the Providence Civic Center and is broadcast across North America on ESPN2, TSN and RDS. The Albany River Rats win the 1995 Calder Cup by sweeping the Fredericton Canadiens in the Finals, in the same year the parent New Jersey Devils win their first Stanley Cup.
For the league’s 60th anniversary in 1995-96, the AHL adds teams in Baltimore and Greensboro, N.C., and is realigned into four divisions and two conferences for the first time. Teams receive a point for an overtime loss, a policy later adopted by the NHL. The All-Star Classic is held in Hershey as the league adds a Skills Competition to the All-Star Game. Brad Smyth of the Carolina Monarchs scores 68 goals in 68 games. Coach John Tortorella’s Rochester Americans capture their sixth Calder Cup, defeating Barry Trotz’s Portland Pirates in a seven-game Finals.
In 1996-97, the Philadelphia Phantoms and Kentucky Thoroughblades join the league and finish 1-2 in attendance. A record crowd of 20,672 fans watches the Carolina Monarchs face Kentucky at Greensboro Coliseum. Rochester participates in the Spengler Cup tournament in Davos, Switzerland, the first North American pro club ever invited to the event. The Phantoms compile the league’s best regular-season mark including a record 19 straight home wins, but Hershey claims the eighth Calder Cup in team history by defeating the first-year Hamilton Bulldogs in the Finals. A year later, Philadelphia’s Peter White wins his third scoring title in four years and leads the Phantoms to their first championship, the Cup-clinching game played before 17,380 fans at a sold-out Spectrum.
Philadelphia sets another AHL attendance record in 1998-99, averaging 12,002 fans per game. Under rookie head coach Peter Laviolette, the Providence Bruins master an incredible 70-point turnaround, winning 56 games in the regular season and capturing the Calder Cup just one season removed from a 19-54-7 outing. The AHL tests a 4-on-4 format in regular-season overtime, and adopts the policy the following year.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins begin play in 1999-2000 at a brand-new facility in northeastern Pennsylvania. The Hartford Wolf Pack, who moved into Connecticut’s capital when the NHL’s Whalers departed in 1997, capture the city’s first-ever pro hockey championship as John Paddock becomes the first head coach to win Calder Cups with three different teams. A redesigned Calder Cup trophy is unveiled in 2000-01, and the Saint John Flames bring a championship to Atlantic Canada.
The 2001-02 season is one of the most memorable in league history for a wide range of reasons. The year begins on a tragic note, as AHL alumni Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis are among the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Membership jumps to 27 teams and the geography of the league changes dramatically with the additions of nine teams, including six from the now-defunct International Hockey League as well as Bridgeport, Cleveland and Manchester. An incredibly competitive regular season ends with the top 17 teams separated by just 12 points. The playoff format expands to include 20 participants, 10 in each conference. The Hershey Bears play their final game at historic Hersheypark Arena, which first opened its doors in 1936. The Chicago Wolves, 16th overall in the regular season-standings, capture the Calder Cup in their first season in the AHL by winning five series in the postseason.
Bolstered by a dual affiliation with Montreal and Edmonton, the Hamilton Bulldogs dominate the 2002-03 regular season before being derailed by Houston in a classic seven-game Finals series. Springfield captain Rob Murray becomes the sixth player ever to skate in 1,000 AHL games. In 2003-04, Milwaukee finishes first overall in the regular season and then captures the Calder Cup with a convincing sweep of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the first league championship in franchise history. A record number of shutouts (210) highlights the “year of the goaltender,” and Hartford backstop Jason LaBarbera claims the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s MVP.
The NHL’s lockout of 2004-05 provides the AHL with some of its brightest young talent ever. Jason Spezza rolls to the scoring championship racking up 117 points for Binghamton, while Rochester’s Ryan Miller becomes the AHL’s first 40-game winner in four decades. The shootout is re-introduced to decide a winner of games tied after overtime. And the league experiences its largest numbers ever at the gate, with more than 7.1 million fans attending games throughout North America, including several contests in NHL arenas. Philadelphia, which set an AHL record with a 17-game winning streak earlier in the season, sweeps Chicago to win the Calder Cup championship, clinching the title before a playoff-record 20,103 fans at the Wachovia Center.
Several facets of the NHL’s new rules package are adopted by the AHL, which marks its 70th anniversary in 2005-06. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton storms out to the best start in league history by earning a point in its first 23 games (20-0-2-1). Philadelphia’s John Slaney records his 454th career point, becoming the AHL’s all-time scoring leader among defensemen. The AHL Hall of Fame is created, with Johnny Bower, Jack Butterfield, Jody Gage, Fred Glover, Willie Marshall, Frank Mathers and Eddie Shore inducted as the inaugural class. Hershey, which missed the playoffs the previous two seasons, begins an affiliation with the Washington Capitals and captures its record-tying ninth Calder Cup with a six-game win over Milwaukee in the Finals.
The Board of Governors overwhelmingly approves the mandatory use of protective visors by all AHL players beginning in 2006-07. Hershey seems destined to repeat as champions, finishing with a league-best 114 points in the regular season. Chicago’s Darren Haydar sets an AHL record by recording a point in 39 consecutive games, while teammate Brett Sterling scores 55 goals, the most by an AHL rookie in 16 years. But the Wolves and Bears both fall in the playoffs to the upstart Hamilton Bulldogs and Carey Price, who duplicates Patrick Roy’s feat from 22 years earlier and leads Montreal’s affiliate to a Calder Cup champion as a 19-year-old goaltender fresh out of junior hockey.
Chicago comes back in 2007-08 and wins its second Calder Cup, holding off Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in six games in the Finals. Wolves forward Jason Krog becomes just the third player to lead the AHL in goals, assists and points in the same season, then does the same in the playoffs. After leading Hershey to back-to-back Finals appearances, Bruce Boudreau is promoted by the Washington Capitals mid-season and goes on to capture the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year.
Hershey reaches the Calder Cup Finals for the third time in four years in 2008-09 and wins its record 10th championship with a six-game series victory over the Manitoba Moose. Bears forward Alexandre Giroux sets a league record by scoring a goal in 15 straight games, and winds up the fifth AHL player ever to score 60 in a season. Head coach Dan Bylsma is promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in February and leads the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup.
The first-ever outdoor game in AHL history highlights the 2009-10 season, as the Syracuse Crunch draw a league-record 21,508 fans to the New York State Fairgrounds for a meeting with the Binghamton Senators. The Hershey Bears set records with 60 victories and a 24-game home winning streak in the regular season, and Bears forwards Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux are the league’s top two scorers for the second year in a row. The Abbotsford Heat begin play, the AHL’s first team ever in the Pacific time zone. In the playoffs, the first-year Texas Stars reach the Finals but fall to Hershey as the Bears become the AHL’s first repeat champions since 1991.
The AHL reaches 30 active teams for the first time in 2010-11. The Oklahoma City Barons’ Bryan Helmer becomes the top-scoring defenseman in league history, and also plays his 1,000th game. While Wilkes-Barre/Scranton cruises through the regular season with 58 wins, the rest of the league engages in several tight races down the stretch. The Binghamton Senators qualify for the playoffs via the crossover as the fifth-place team in the East Division and earn a historic first-round win over Manchester, erasing a 3-1 series deficit by taking each of the final three games in overtime. The Sens go on to take out Portland, Charlotte and Houston to earn the first championship in 29 seasons of AHL hockey in Broome County.
The Norfolk Admirals put together one of the greatest seasons in AHL history in 2011-12, garnering headlines around the world with their professional-hockey record 28-game winning streak. The Adirondack Phantoms and Hershey Bears battle outdoors at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and more than double the AHL’s single-game attendance record when 45,653 fans watch the game. Hamilton hosts Toronto outside at Ivor Wynne Stadium before the largest crowd ever to watch AHL hockey in Canada (20,565). Coach Jon Cooper’s Admirals roll to their first Calder Cup with a 15-3 playoff record, sweeping Toronto in the Finals.
The first three months of the 2012-13 AHL season are headlined by an even greater influx of young talent in the wake of an NHL work stoppage. Justin Schultz’s record pace with Oklahoma City earns him the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman, and fellow Edmonton Oilers budding stars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also turn hockey’s attention to OKC. Following an affiliation switch to Syracuse, Tampa Bay’s top prospects make a second consecutive trip to the Calder Cup Finals, but the Grand Rapids Griffins — led by playoff MVP Tomas Tatar — bring West Michigan its first championship by prevailing in a thrilling postseason run.
The AHL returns to Utica, N.Y., in 2013-14 as the Comets begin play at a renovated Memorial Auditorium. Rochester is once again invited to participate in the Spengler Cup tournament. The league plays host to Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League at the AHL All-Star Classic in St. John’s. Chicago’s Jake Allen leads the AHL in all four major goaltending categories (wins, GAA, save percentage and shutouts). Travis Morin earns both regular-season and playoff MVP honors and wins both scoring titles as the Texas Stars go wire-to-wire, finishing with the best record in the league before capturing the franchise’s first Calder Cup with a Finals win over the St. John’s IceCaps.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton rookie Matt Murray sets several records during the 2014-15 season, including the longest shutout streak ever by an AHL goaltender (304:11). The AHL adopts a new overtime format that includes time played at 3-on-3, bringing even more excitement to the extra period. The Syracuse Crunch set an all-time attendance record for an indoor pro hockey game in the U.S. as 30,715 fans watch their game against Utica at the Carrier Dome. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are a hit with fans in their first season in Allentown, selling out 22 games at the beautiful new PPL Center. The Manchester Monarchs capture a bittersweet Calder Cup in their final season in the Queen City.
The AHL’s geography changes dramatically in 2015-16 with the formation of a Pacific Division and the addition of five teams in California. The Manitoba Moose also return to the fold as the Winnipeg Jets’ new top affiliate. Two long-standing league records fall, as San Jose’s Roy Sommer passes Bun Cook to become the winningest head coach in AHL history, and Rockford’s Michael Leighton surpasses Johnny Bower’s mark for career shutouts. Ontario’s Peter Budaj wins 42 games, the most by an AHL goalie in 55 years. The AHL’s 80th-anniversary season ends with a Finals matchup between two of the league’s most tenured cities, and the Lake Erie Monsters complete a 15-2 postseason run with a sweep of Hershey to bring the Calder Cup to Cleveland for the first time since 1964.
Kenny Agostino runs away with the AHL scoring title and earns MVP honors in 2016-17, helping the Chicago Wolves to a division title. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finishes with the best regular-season record in the AHL while continuing to develop Stanley Cup champions: 2016-17 AHL All-Rookie forward Jake Guentzel leads the NHL with 13 playoff goals as Pittsburgh wins its second straight title. For the second time in five seasons, the Grand Rapids Griffins defeat the Syracuse Crunch in six games to capture the Calder Cup.
In 2017-18, the AHL welcomes Laval, Que., and Belleville, Ont., to the league. Several AHL players represent their countries at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, including Stockton’s Cody Goloubef, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Christian Thomas and Belleville’s Chris Kelly, who win bronze with Canada. Lehigh Valley needs five overtimes to beat Charlotte in Game 4 of their playoff series, the longest game in AHL history. The Toronto Marlies set the pace from start to finish, leading the league with 54 wins and 112 points during the regular season before outlasting Texas in the first seven-game Calder Cup Finals since 2003.
The Colorado Eagles join the AHL in 2018-19, bringing the league to 31 teams for the first time. The Utica Comets continue to fill the Adirondack Bank Center and set a new league record for consecutive sellouts. Recalled from San Antonio on January, Jordan Binnington goes on to backstop the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup championship. The Charlotte Checkers roll to the regular-season title, then capture their first Calder Cup with a five-game victory over Chicago in the Finals.
With teams gearing up for a run at the Calder Cup Playoffs, the 2019-20 season is abruptly suspended on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is officially canceled on May 11, marking the first time in 84 years that the Calder Cup will not be awarded. David Andrews retires as President and CEO on June 30, succeeded by Scott Howson. Many AHL graduates play prominent roles when the NHL resumes its season in August. Tampa Bay and Dallas meet in a Stanley Cup Final between two organizations with long-running development success in the AHL, and the Lightning’s six-game victory makes Jon Cooper just the eighth head coach ever to win both Stanley Cup and Calder Cup titles.
The 2020-21 season is delayed until as the pandemic continues, finally getting underway in February with 28 teams participating with abbreviated schedules of varying lengths. With fans unable to attend games, several teams operate out of practice facilities or their NHL affiliates’ rinks, including in Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary. The Henderson Silver Knights begin play in Las Vegas and are one of the most successful first-year clubs in league history, finishing atop the Pacific Division during the regular season.
A full 1,118-game schedule is played in 2021-22, including a return to Abbotsford with the first-year Canucks joining the league. For the first time ever, 10 female referees and linespeople join the league’s roster of on-ice officials. The Chicago Wolves defeat the Springfield Thunderbirds to claim the Calder Cup as the league hands out its championship trophy for the first time in three years.
The AHL reaches 32 teams for the first time in 2022-23, and returns to a unified schedule length as each club plays 72 games. In their first season playing in Alberta, the Calgary Wranglers capture the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy with the league’s best record in the regular season while Mitch Love is named coach of the year for the second straight season and Dustin Wolf earns top goaltender and league MVP honors. The expansion Coachella Valley Firebirds spend the first two months on the road while Acrisure Arena is completed, then compile 48 wins and 103 points before making a storybook run to the Calder Cup Finals. But the Hershey Bears spoil the Cinderella story and capture their 12th Calder Cup when Mike Vecchione becomes the first player in league history to score a sudden-death overtime goal in Game 7 of the Finals.