History of the AHL
As even the most casual fan will likely know, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins is a part of the American Hockey League, which you might know as the AHL. If you’ve ever gone to a game, you’ve seen us play against other AHL teams like the Hershey Bears, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and the Charlotte Checkers. However, there are many more teams in the AHL you don’t get to see often and while the Penguins had their first season in 1999, the AHL’s history is much older.
The American Hockey League was founded over 80 years ago, so it hasn’t always looked the way it does now as a lot has happened over the years. So, what are some of the big moments that have happened during the AHL’s history to get it to where it is today? Let’s find out.
What League Proceeded the AHL?
The AHL was actually not the first of its kind. Prior to the AHL, there were two similar leagues, the Canadian-American Hockey League (Can-Am League), founded in 1926, and the International Hockey League (IHL), founded in 1929. However, both leagues had trouble with maintaining enough teams, and eventually, both were operating with the bare minimum number of teams. To ensure both leagues could maintain a healthy number of teams, the Can-Am League and the IHL merged into a new league with eight teams, the International-American Hockey League (I-AHL), in 1936 and formally consolidated in 1938. The Hershey Bears are the only remaining original team from the IHL to play without interruption since 1938.
Transition to the AHL
What was originally known as the I-AHL was renamed the American Hockey League in 1940 after several seasons. During the first few decades of the AHL, the league saw a great deal of success and the number of teams in the league grew. However, problems started to arise during the 60s and 70s which caused teams in the league to shut down. This is partly due to the expansion of the NHL and the formation of the World Hockey Association. A rise in players’ salaries also forced some teams to close their doors.
While the AHL faced many difficulties during this time, things did begin to change toward the end of the 70s when the North American Hockey League folded, followed by the World Hockey Association. The AHL continued to grow in the 2000s when the International Hockey League shut down.
Since 1937, teams in the AHL have competed in the playoff championships for the Calder Cup, named for the first president of the league, Frank Calder. The first winner of the Calder Cup was the Syracuse Stars, while the Hershey Bears have won the award more than any other team. The Calder Cup was the oldest awarded professional ice hockey playoff trophy until recently. Due to COVID-19, playoffs were canceled in 2020 and 2021, making the Charlotte Checkers the most recent winners in 2019. The Penguins have made it to the finals for the Calder Cup three times.
Keep Following Along with the WBS Penguins
While you might not be able to remember everything that’s happened during the decades the AHL has been around, it’s easy to stay up to date with the Penguins so that you never miss an important event.
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