CEDAR PARK — The AHL could be looking at a shorter schedule for next season.
Right now teams play a 76-game schedule — the NHL plays 82 — but a combination of factors, including player development and ticket sales, could push the league to a 72- or 66-game schedule, as first reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle earlier this week.
By design, the AHL schedule is heavy on weekend dates. It’s easier on travel for teams and league-wide average attendance is better on Fridays and Saturdays than mid-week games, according to league president Dave Andrews.
Because of this, many teams play a schedule filled with three games in three nights to maximize weekend attendance. In the NHL, “3-in-3s” aren’t allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
“The tough balance is the three-in-three nights,” Dallas Stars general manger Jim Nill said. “That’s always a fine balance you’ve got to take with rest and recovery.”
Texas played a league-low three 3-in-3s this season, but dealt with injuries or illness on each occasion.
While less games would reduce the number of 3-in-3s, some NHL organizations believe it would also help with development since prospects would spend less time traveling and more time practicing.
Lopping off 10 games to a 66-schedule, however, might be a bit too much for Nill’s liking.
“I’d say anything from a 70- to 75-game schedule is kind of where you want to be,” he said. “You’ve got to be playing games if you want to develop.”
It’s likely the AHL’s board of governors would vote on any proposed schedule change during the All-Star break Jan. 25-26.