SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League today released the complete schedule of regular-season games for the 2015-16 season, the league’s 80th year of operation. The season, comprising 1,120 games, begins on Fri., Oct. 9 and concludes on Sun., Apr. 17.
All teams will play 76 games each (38 at home, 38 on the road) with the exception of the clubs which joined the AHL in January as part of the creation of a Pacific Division (Bakersfield, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, Stockton); those five teams will play 68 games each (34 home, 34 road).
• The 2015-16 regular season opens with five games on Oct. 9, including the beginning of a new era of professional hockey in California as the San Jose Barracuda, primary affiliate of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, host the Rockford IceHogs at the SAP Center in San Jose and the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers) host the Grand Rapids Griffins. On Oct. 10, the Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings) visit Bakersfield, the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks) host Grand Rapids, and the Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames) host Rockford. Ontario’s home opener is scheduled for Oct. 23 vs. Bakersfield.
• Opening night also marks the return of the Manitoba Moose as the new top affiliate of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. The Moose visit the Toronto Marlies on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10 before their home opener at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Oct. 15 vs. Ontario.
• The opening weekend of the AHL’s 80th season features some matchups between historic cities, as Lake Erie visits Rochester (Oct. 9), Hershey travels to Springfield (Oct. 10) and Providence hosts Portland (Oct. 11).
• Realignment has moved the defending Western Conference champion Utica Comets into the Eastern Conference, where they open Oct. 10 against their new North Division rivals, the Rochester Americans. The Comets, who sold out 40 of their 51 regular-season and playoff games at the Memorial Auditorium last year, open the home portion of their 2015-16 schedule on Oct. 21 vs. Rochester.
• The Charlotte Checkers return to the historic Bojangles’ Coliseum this season, with their home opener set for Nov. 7 vs. Manitoba.
• The 2016 AHL All-Star Classic will take place Sun., Jan. 31 and Mon., Feb. 1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, N.Y.
• There are three nights this season on which all 30 AHL teams are in action: Sat., Jan. 23, Sat., Feb. 6 and Sat., Apr. 9.
The 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs will feature the top four teams in each of the AHL’s four divisions as ranked by points percentage (points earned divided by points available), with one possibility for a “crossover” in each conference: if the fifth-place team in the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a better points percentage than the fourth-place team in the North or Pacific Division, it would compete in the other division’s bracket.
As announced last month, the 2015-16 season will feature some new rules, most notably a five-minute overtime period during the regular season played at three skaters aside for the duration.
The American Hockey League was officially born in 1936 when the Canadian-American Hockey League and the International Hockey League merged to form the International-American Hockey League (the “International” would be dropped from the league’s name in 1940). The AHL continues to serve as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives, broadcasters and staff of all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 14th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2014-15. Through the years, the AHL has been home to more than 100 future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The entire 2015-16 AHL regular season schedule is available for viewing at theahl.com.