Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett talked to the media following today’s announcement concerning the start of the 2020-21 American Hockey League season.
Twenty-eight of the league’s 31 teams will be participating in the upcoming, abbreviated campaign, including the Penguins. The Charlotte Checkers, Milwaukee Admirals and Springfield Thunderbirds have opted out of the season.
But the ability to continue the growth of the next crop of NHL regulars gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a reason to have their AHL club participate in this unique year.
“Development is such an important piece of the Pittsburgh Penguins, to make sure that they have their young kids and other guys ready to make that next step, give them the opportunities…they looked at everything from finance to development and made the decision that they wanted to play.
“I’ll be frank, this is going to be a difficult financial year for both the AHL team and the NHL team. But when we look at the big picture….[Pittsburgh General Manager Jim Rutherford] just decided that it was in the best interest of the Pittsburgh Penguins to keep our young kids playing.”
Some other information that came out of the call.
- The Penguins schedule will feature in the range of 32 games, running from early February through mid-May.
- Due to the ongoing public health situation, no fans will be allowed to attend home games at the start of the season.
- The team is hopeful to be able to accommodate a limited number of fans later in the season.
- Season ticket members will be receiving info from the team’s front office over the next 24 hours concerning their existing memberships and ways they can enjoy games this season.
- Information on the schedule is expected to be released in the near future.
- The Penguins will be playing in the North Division featuring geographical rivals, including Lehigh Valley, Hershey, Binghamton, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica.
- The Binghamton Devils will be playing out of Newark, NJ for the season.
- An extensive health and safety protocol has been put into place by the American Hockey League, which will include extensive cleaning of facilities, as well as regular Covid-19 testing for players and hockey operations staff members.
“Safety will be of the utmost [importance] for our players and our fans and our personnel,” Barrett said, noting that the team will be following the guidance of the Pittsburgh Penguins as wall as the rule laid out by the AHL.
“We’ve got a pretty good big brother who’s guiding us through this process.”