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Photo Credit: Stockton Heat/Jack Lima

Digging into the Stockton Heat’s 2017-18 schedule

The American Hockey League is an odd league. It’s basically two leagues within one; the subset of California teams operate under a reduced 68-game schedule and play a ton of games close to home.

The Stockton Heat today unveiled their 2017-18 regular season schedule, and once you dig into it you can really understand why the Calgary Flames (and other teams) pushed hard for the Pacific Division setup that they now have.

Stockton plays 56 of their 68 games within their division. Their division is primarily based in California and the schedule is skewed heavily towards games against the four other California teams (38). That results in only 15 games being played outside of California all season (including four games in Tucson) and a few long road trips that aren’t nearly as bad as they sound.

  • A six-game trip from Nov. 22 to Dec. 6 that never leaves California and is spread across three weeks.
  • A seven-game trip from Dec. 13-29 that’s also spread across three weeks and is heavily weekend-skewed.

Here’s a quick map of the general area where Stockton will play all but 11 games in 2017-18.

Their entire schedule is heavy on back-to-backs – they play 21 sets – and weekend games – they play 23 times each on Friday and Saturday. Only four of the 21 back-to-backs involve travel of any kind, and one of them involves a two-hour drive from Ontario to San Diego.

The big sales pitch for the Pacific Division was that players would spend more time practicing and developing than they would spend traveling, resulting in cost savings for the teams and players improving. Based on a quick sketch of their schedule and estimates of their travel, the Heat will only take a plane nine times during the season – their major road trips send them to Texas (twice), Cleveland, Winnipeg and Grand Rapids/Milwaukee.

Other than those trips, they spend the vast majority of their time in California. It may not be perfect in the sense that Stockton plays a reduced schedule against a fraction of the rest of the league – there are 18 teams they won’t play at all – but for what the AHL is supposed to be – a development league – the schedule seems to hit all the right marks.

  • RealMcHockeyReturns

    This California-only, save travel time and money, and practice more thing they started last year is very wise way to develop talent and avoid unnecessary stress from traveling too much.

    • dontcryWOLF88

      Travel stress is part of the job at pro level, though. Bringing your “A” game no matter where you play is also a skill needing to be developed. As well, I feel there is something to say in the learning process for testing your skills against the widest range of players possible. Not just the same group over and over. Dont assume its a call made to help the players develop btw, could just be an organizational money saving decision. Travel is expensive.

  • Guys, how does the Flames relationship with Stockton work, exactly? Like when it comes to ownership and revenue, things like that. Also, are the relationship between affiliates and mother-clubs the same across the league, or different from team to team?

    • loudogYYC

      The Flames, like most teams in the NHL, own their AHL franchise and therefore control hockey operations and player management. They don’t own an AHL arena so they sign multiyear partnerships with cities or sometimes private organizations who provide the venue and probably help promote the team.

      Back in the day they used to share the Lowell LockMonsters franchise with Carolina so they only had a limited number of slots available for their prospects. Some teams still do this but it sucks.

      Anyone, please correct me if I’m wrong however this is how I understand it. Hope it helps.

      • Baalzamon

        Vegas is going to share their farm team with someone (forget who or where). I think otherwise, every team in the league has one full AHL affiliate.

        You had most of it right, the only thing you missed is that some AHL organizations (the Chicago Wolves for example) are more autonomous than others. The Wolves are privately-owned and the NHL affiliate has to coordinate with them rather than mandating everything.