Every summer as the hockey season ends, the question of how the following season will turn out is among the fans mind. Questions about the team they supports future is always asked.
Whether the future looks bright for the fans respective NHL club, or not so much for other franchises, January 31st, 2011, marked a date that hockey fans have been waiting for since the opening puck drop back in October; The AHL All-Star game in Hershey.
In 1936, the AHL was born to follow the likes of the NHL, as it only served six to ten teams across Eastern North America. With competition rising from other leagues, threatening to grab better talent and financially exceed them, it wasn’t until decades later that the AHL blew up into one of the greatest development leagues in the world.
As decades would pass, high attendance numbers would expand the league west and into more states. The last two decades witnessed teams move to San Antonio, Charlotte, Portland, Grand Rapids, and even Oklahoma City. The 2010-11 AHL season marks the leagues 75th anniversary.
However, just this season, the AHL matched the NHL with 30 teams in both leagues.
The success began to run in the 1980’s as world class players began riding the bus in the AHL. Soon, players like Zdeno Chara and Evgeni Nabokov laced up the skates in the AHL. Of the 528 players that have taken part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 94-percent of the players have made it to the National Hockey League.
With almost 75 hockey seasons down, and hopefully many more to come, on Monday the AHL celebrated the present day prospects in hockey by holding the traditional AHL All-Star Game. Now, years later, the AHL All-Star Game returned to its original format of the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference. Many players who had recently participated in classics are moving on to the next stage in their careers, so this years new participants can only have high hopes and expectations on their future regarding their professional hockey career.
For players like Andrew Gordon and Johanthan Cheechoo, the NHL is already something fairly familiar to them. Gordon recently scored his first NHL goal with the Washington Capitals. On the other hand, Cheechoo scored 56 goals in 82 games for the San Jose Sharks during the 2005-06 season. Cheechoo is hoping the All-Star Game this year would showcase him back into the NHL, while Gordon is still looking to break through with the Caps and be a regular on their 20-man roster.
In addition to the events of the All-Star Classic, 2006 marked the establishment of the AHL Hall of Fame, and every year since, four prestigious people had been inducted into the hall of fame. Of these inductees, three include Jimmy Anderson, Johnny Bower, and Bruce Boudreau. This year, Larry Wilson, Mitch Lamoureux, Maurice Podoloff and Harry Pidhirny were all inducted to the Hall prior to this year’s All-Star game.
This year the East had dominated the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic from start to finish with a 19-7 win in the skills competition and an 11-8 win in the All-Star Game.
Despite the outcome of the classic, it was a time of creating memories that will last a life time for fans and players alike. It was a time to celebrate the AHL, no matter who came out on top.
As participants of the classic go on to bigger and better things in their career, they will always be remembered for the All-Star team of 2011. They can always reflect and share the memories on the days of riding the bus from town to town.