The brave new world of the American Hockey League was finally revealed today, as the league officially released their 2015-16 schedule – featuring 68-game schedules for each of the five California-based teams.
As one of them, the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate – the Stockton Heat – will play 68 games during their inaugural season. And they’ll do so by only playing against 9 of the AHL’s other 29 teams.
Here’s how the schedule shakes down:
- 12 games against the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton)
- 2 games against the Iowa Wild (Minnesota)
- 4 games against the Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg)
- 12 games against the Ontario Reign (Los Angeles)
- 2 games against the Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago)
- 6 games against the San Antonio Rampage (Colorado)
- 12 games against the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim)
- 12 games against the San Jose Barracuda (San Jose)
- 6 games against the Texas Stars (Dallas)
The upside is the Stockton schedule is really, really lean. There are tons of days off. For an example, October sees them play games on October 10, 15, 21, 24, 30 and 31. That’s it. They play clusters of back-to-back games, but that minimizes time on the road and maximizes time for practice and development. And it makes it potentially easy to bring a player up to Calgary quickly without them missing a ton of games (unless the player is called up right before a cluster of games).
For those of you who, like me, were hoping to jet down to California for some road games, here’s the best stretches to try for:
- October 31 & 31 in San Diego
- February 5 in San Diego and February 6 in Bakersfield
- March 4 & 5 in San Diego
- March 25 & 26 in Ontario
On the other hand, my goodness, the Heat have a thin, thin schedule. The reason I like the WHL – for example – as a development league is because young players have to play a lot of different styles of games against a lot of different styles of teams. Playing against 9 other teams rather than against 29 different teams exposes players to a lot narrower scope of situations and styles.
But it does sound a lot cheaper than flying players to the far reaches of the continent for minor league games, so we’ll see how things turn out this year before we judge the approach too harshly.