It’s unfortunate, but reality has taken a back seat for AHL hockey to return anytime soon.
There was news on Saturday that the Canadian Government denied the Toronto Blue Jays professional baseball club home access at Rogers Centre during the Covid-19 pandemic citing “it could be risky”.
The City of Toronto is also the site for the NHL Maple Leafs professional hockey team at Scotiabank Arena as well as the AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies at Coca-Cola Coliseum.
With the baseball team playing all their games on the road, it’s an unfortunate situation but doable without fans participating. The same can be said if their hockey team had to succumb to such situations, however difficult it would become. There is TV access that will keep Canadian fans glued to their schedules as well as all hockey fans abroad with the availability of social streaming.
But this cannot be said for their affiliates starting with the AHL.
The AHL has taken the stance to shadow the NHL lately and with the summer playoffs approaching, which most likely means a delay to the start of next season way beyond the traditional October threshold we all are accustomed to.
For the AHL to survive, they rely on fans as well as advertisers to make or break the season. That also bodes well for the ECHL affiliates as television revenue is non-existent. There is a way to watch games at both levels via the internet, but the profits are either bare minimal or non-existent for ownership(s) in both leagues.
Some have suggested there will not be a next season as to skip a year. That would be financially devastating beyond belief for what has taken place for some clubs outside the major cities that host AHL events. I would hate to speculate what the league would look like for the 2021-’22 season with several additions from the ECHL and beyond slipping into replacing some geographically challenged venues.
The AHL needs fans in the stands to survive right now. There is none planned for the traditional start in early October. Perhaps start the 2020-’21 season on New Years Day. Limit ticket sales and seating arrangements already set in place by the NHL by then, as they would have ample time to arrange a plan that the league can then duplicate.
The ultimate solution? I don’t have one as I hope for the best. If there is a way to ease back into participating and cheering on the home team in a way to return to normality, I’m all for it.