The American Hockey League announced that the 2014 All-Star Classic is going to be in St. John’s, Newfoundland February 11-12, 2014. The official release can be found here.
The format for 2014 is going to change, with one team of AHL All-Stars facing Färjestad BK, a team in the Swedish Hockey League. There don’t appear to be any further details at this time as to how how many AHL players will participate or how they will be selected.
It will be the first All-Star game that St. John’s has hosted since 2002, which was also an Olympic year. The last time an AHL All-Star game was held outside of the Northeastern region of the United States was 2007, when the Toronto Marlies hosted the event. Many reports say St. John’s was the only city to express interest in hosting the event, which I suppose made the choosing easy for the AHL.
Since 1995, when the league began holding an annual All-Star event for the first time since 1959, only three teams in the Western Conference have hosted the event, and as can be seen by the following list, a number of teams have repeated as hosts, it has rarely been held outside of the Northeast. The game has been in Pennsylvania four times, Rhode Island twice, New York three times, and Maine twice.
1995 – Providence, RI
1996 – Hershey, PA
1997 – Saint John, New Brunswick
1998 – Syracuse, NY
1999 – Philadelphia, PA
2000 – Rochester, NY
2001 – Wilkes-Barre, PA
2002 – St. John’s, Newfoundland
2003 – Portland, ME
2004 – Grand Rapids, MI
2005 – Manchester, NH
2006 – Winnipeg, Manitoba
2007 – Toronto, Ontario
2008 – Binghamton, NY
2009 – Worcester, MA
2010 – Portland, ME
2011 – Hershey, PA
2012 – Atlantic City, NJ
2013 – Providence, RI
All in all, there has been very little diversity in the locations, which may be attributed to the fact that few teams and organizations are interested in hosting the event, and is one of the contributing factors to the 2012 event being held on neutral territory in Atlantic City, NJ.
From a logistical standpoint, adding a large-scale event like an All-Star event to the staff of a minor-league team is quite a hassle, with very little potential of financial return. The Charlotte Checkers, for example, have a larger staff than many of the teams in the league, but even so, it may be unrealistic to expect them to be able to pull off an event like an All-Star event without additional support. Generally speaking, AHL teams operate on a smaller staff and budget than those of their major league affiliates, and there aren’t staff resources to commit to executing a world class event like an AHL All Star Game in addition to a team’s day-to-day operations. It seems to me that the league needs to find a better way to share the burden of the hosting so that more cities and teams would be interested in hosting the event. I, for one, would love to see an event in Charlotte someday, and the Queen City could host a world-class event, but know based on the history of the game and the Northeastern bias, it’s probably unlikely.
All this being said, I’m seriously considering attending the event in St. John’s this February. Visiting Newfoundland has always been on my bucket list, and seeing it under the spotlight of an American Hockey League event could be the icing on the cake. I’ve already investigated plane tickets (thank you frequent flyer miles!), and even the option of getting there early to see an IceCaps game on their home ice, and all of the amazing sights that St. John’s has to offer. (And, the traditional music, the pubs, and of course Screech, a Newfoundland rum that is quite delicious from what I understand!)
So, Checkers fans:
What do you think about the new format, and the game being held in Newfoundland?
Where would you like to see an All-Star event in the future, and what formats would be interesting to explore?
As always, Let’s Go Checkers!