After weeks of speculation, the AHL officially announced its plans for the 2020-21 season on Monday. Play is officially set to begin on Feb. 5, and run through mid-May, with 28 of 31 teams electing to participate in the season.
Much like the NHL, the AHL will see temporary division realignments to accommodate the need for Canadian teams to stay in Canada. The league will split into five divisions this year rather than the standard four. The Chicago Wolves will play in the Central Division, alongside the Cleveland Monsters (Columbus), Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit), Iowa Wild (Minnesota), Rockford IceHogs (Chicago), and Texas Stars (Dallas).
The Cleveland Monsters traditionally play in the AHL’s North Division, although they have generally been a regular opponent of the Wolves in years past. Missing from the division this year are the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville), who elected not to play, the San Antonio Rampage, who were purchased by the Vegas Golden Knights and relocated to Nevada and the Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg), who will play in the Canadian Division.
Aside from Milwaukee, the other two teams who have opted out of play are the Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis) and the Canes’ former affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers (Florida).
Some reports indicate that the Wolves could receive players on loan from the Nashville Predators/Milwaukee Admirals, which could help fill any gaps in the current roster. The Admirals and Predators organizations have not yet confirmed these reports or announced any plans about the future for their players.
The Wolves will be playing this season out of their practice facility, the Triphahn Community Center and Ice Arena in nearby Hoffman Estates. No fans will be permitted until local regulations and the Illinois Department of Public Health deem it safe to do so.
While the Wolves have a full television deal in Chicago, in addition to streaming their games on the AHL’s streaming service, it remains to be seen what the impact their temporary relocation will have on fans’ ability to watch the games.
Information on season schedules, number of games to be played, and what a playoff format could look like, is all still forthcoming.