As the 2020-21 NHL season draws near, the St. Louis Blues will have to do so without their newest AHL affiliate in Springfield. It’ll be the second time in four season the Blues will be without an AHL affiliate.
It was announced the Springfield Thunderbirds, the Blues new AHL affiliate, has opted out of the upcoming season.
“All professional sports have been impacted by the inability to open arenas and facilities to their fans,” said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong in a statement on Monday. “That is particularly true at the minor professional level where fan attendance is the lifeblood of business operations. We look forward to working with Springfield in the 2021-22 season. In the meantime, we have reached a working agreement with Utica where our prospects will continue to develop for the 2020-21 season.”
In their place, the St. Louis Blues have reached a joint agreement with the Vancouver Canucks to have their players affiliated with the Utica Comets for the 2020-21 season.
The AHL intends on beginning their season on Feb. 5th. The NHL plans on beginning Jan. 13th.
“Based on the information I was getting, I wasn’t sure we were going to reach 28 teams even two weeks ago, but I think some of the teams got excited and found a way to make it work,” AHL president and CEO Scott Howson said. “It’s a good day for the AHL, except for the three that can’t participate and obviously we know their reasons and they’re legitimate and they’ll move on and plan for ’21-22.”
The Thunderbirds were the third team to announce their opt-out: the Charlotte Checkers and the Milwaukee Admirals had preceded the Thunderbirds’ announcement. All three teams intend on returning for the 2021-22 NHL/AHL season.