I spoke with AHL President and CEO David Andrews on Wednesday afternoon about the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic, different All-Star formats, and Texas as a potential host in the future.
The following is part of our conversation:
You picked Texas Stars captain Maxime Fortunus as the captain for the Western Conference this year. What factors went into making that selection?
He’s been in consideration to be a captain in our All-Star game for a few years now. Max is a really unique individual in our league. He’s won a championship and has been to three Calder Cup finals. He’s sixth all-time in history of our league in playoff games played. When you think of him being an undrafted player to having a 12-year career so far, that’s all been through his own force of will.
The All-Star game is back to East vs. West after the AHL All-Stars played Färjestad BK in 2014, and the league has now used a couple different formats. Are you set on sticking with East-West from now on?
We played with Canada vs. The World format for quite a while. But as the league grew to 30 teams and there became a clear Eastern-Western divide, that format became the preferred one. Canada vs. The World also seemed unfair to certain players who have a better chance of inclusion in East-West.
But, we really like and I would still like to work toward some international competition in the future. The window isn’t always open where international teams can come over here and, except in an Olympic year, our All-Star game needs to be around the NHL All-Star break for TV purposes.
I’m still planning to explore us playing and there is some potential for us to play against a European team in the future. When we’re not exploring that, we’ll certainly play East-West.
Why Utica as host this year?
We have a bid process in place and that is just now getting in place for next year. We listen to the cities and we talk to them about the financial package and advantages of the game.
In the case of Utica, Robert Esche and his group in Utica have done such a good job. We thought it was really good to reward Robert and his group. They’ve done a great job and the league has some some good history at the building with the (Utica) Devils.
It’s really a quality facility. The only drawback is we’re going into the smallest building (3,815 capacity) that’s ever hosted this event. In some ways I think it’s good to show the smaller markets and what this event can bring. We’re really looking forward to it.
Are you expecting more media attention in Utica with prospective AHL Western movement?
I hope not, because they won’t be getting anything.
What about the bringing the AHL All-Star Game to the Cedar Park Center? If the Texas Stars put in a bid do you think Central Texas would be a good fit?
It would be a great venue, and we would love to take the All-Star Classic a little further west in the future. If Texas was to put in a bid I’m sure the city of Cedar Park would be a great host.
The AHL All-Star game and Skills competition will be televised in Texas on Fox Sports Southwest. The All-Star Skills Competition at 7 p.m. central time on Sunday, Jan. 25 and the All-Star Game at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26.