AHL’s 72nd season underway

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ahl06_200.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League begins its 72nd season tonight as an all-time high of 29 teams start down the road to the 2008 Calder Cup championship.

The 2007-08 campaign gets underway at 7:05 p.m. (ET) when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins host the Hershey Bears at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza. It marks the eighth consecutive year in which the Penguins have hosted the AHL’s regular-season opener.

The 2007 Calder Cup champion Hamilton Bulldogs drop the puck on their title defense on Sunday evening, Oct. 7, when they visit Rochester. The Bulldogs will celebrate their first AHL championship at their home opener when those same Americans visit Copps Coliseum on Fri., Oct. 12.

Two of the AHL’s newest entries begin their inaugural seasons against each other on Saturday, Oct. 6, as the Quad City Flames host the Rockford IceHogs. The AHL’s third newcomer also hits the ice for the first time on Saturday when the Lake Erie Monsters host Grand Rapids.

The 2007-08 season opens with eight head coaches making their AHL debuts: Binghamton’s Cory Clouston, Bridgeport’s Jack Capuano, Grand Rapids’ Mike Stothers, Hartford’s Ken Gernander, Houston’s Kevin Constantine, Lake Erie’s Joe Sacco, Milwaukee’s Lane Lambert and Springfield’s Kelly Buchberger.

The regular season comprises 1,160 games leading up to the start of the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs in April. On Jan. 27-28, the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic will be held at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y., featuring the top talent in the AHL competing in both the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 83 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the sixth year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2006-07.

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