AHL Comes to Winnipeg, But Will It Come to Toronto

By Andrew Bourgeois
The death of the International Hockey League has given the Manitoba Moose a new lease on life.
The Moose were among six IHL teams absorbed by the rival American Hockey League on Monday. The Winnipeg-based club announced Tuesday that they are affiliated with the NHL Vancouver Canucks.

The death of the IHL also won’t prevent backers of the Toronto Roadrunners from bringing a minor-league team to Toronto for the 2002-2003 season.

Ernie Coetzee, the Roadrunners chief operating officer, plans to apply for an AHL franchise in early July. The Roadrunners had originally planned to play in the IHL.
The addition of the six former IHL clubs increases the AHL ranks to 27 teams. Besides the Moose, IHL refugees include the Milwaukee Admirals, Utah Grizzlies, Grand Rapids Griffins, Chicago Wolves and Houston Aeros. The AHL hopes to have 30 teams by the 2002-2003 season.

“I think we’ve added great strength and great value to our league,” said David Andrews, the AHL president and CEO.

Chipman is thrilled his team is part of the AHL.
“The benefits for our organization and for those other applicants that were successful in obtaining membership in the AHL are quite obvious,” Chipman said.
“We’re delighted to be able to become a part of the rich history of the American Hockey League.”

The six new teams will pay $1 million US each over 10 years.

“Our board recognized the value these teams, and these owners, bring to our league and discounted our expansion fee,” Andrews said.

The Moose join four Canadian AHL teams who already have NHL affiliates: the St. John’s Maple Leafs (Toronto), Quebec Citadelles (Montreal), Hamilton Bulldogs (Edmonton) and defending Calder Cup champion Saint John Flames (Calgary).

Burke said the AHL, which has restrictions on how many veteran players each team can dress, is more of a developmental league than the IHL.

Eventually, the NHL wants to follow the path of major league baseball with each of the league’s 30 teams having an AHL farm club,

“Long-term, I think it’s good for the health of the minor league and player development,” Burke said.
“I think it’s unfortunate a couple of franchises biting the dust.”

Five IHL clubs, including the Orlando Solar Bears who won the league championship last month and Kansas City, Vancouver’s affiliate, will fold.

Burke said there are “numerous attractions” for a Canadian NHL club to have a Canadian-based farm team. Paying players in Canadian funds and reducing travel costs will save the Canucks more than $250,000 a season.
There are also political benefits.

“We’re asking the Canadian government to look at our situation and I don’t think it makes sense for us to be spending our farm dollars in the U.S.,” he said.

Andrews said divisional alignments have not been finalized for this season, but the former six IHL teams will probably play in the same conference and maybe the same division.

“The new member clubs will play each other in a fairly heavily weighted schedule in order to protect their traditional rivalries,” he said.

The AHL will scrap the travel subsidies it paid some teams but will create a travel equalization formula to share costs among the clubs, Andrew said.

Coetzee said it was sad to see the IHL fold after 56 years.

“We’re sad the IHL has dissolved but we’re happy with the perspective for the future,” he said.
The Roadroaders plan to spend $35 million to refurbish the CNE Coliseum.

The team has to make one more application before city council and is in the process of negotiating an affliction deal with an NHL team.

Coetzee said his team has no illusions about unseating the Maple Leafs as Toronto’s to hockey draw.
“We don’t pretend to be them, we don’t pretend to compete with them,” he said.

“But there is a huge demand in Toronto for affordable professional sports and pro hockey in particular.”


IHL FASTFACTS

On March, 1964 the Chatham Maroons and Windsor Bulldogs cease operations, leaving the IHL based solely in the United States.


TODAY IN HOCKEY

June 8, 1983 the Minnesota North Stars pick Brian Lawton first overall in the NHL Draft.