About AHL

The American Hockey League (AHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in the United States and Canada that serves as the NHL's main developmental league. The AHL was founded in 1936 with the merger of two existing leagues, the Canadian-American Hockey League (CAHL) and the International Hockey League (IHL). The league consists of 30 teams, 26 in the United States and 4 in Canada. In terms of overall skill level, the AHL is widely regarded as being on par with other professional hockey leagues in North America, such as the ECHL. However, because of its close relationship with the NHL and the fact that many of its players are NHL prospects or backups on two-way contracts, it is often considered to be a step below the NHL. The AHL's regular season runs from October through April, with each team playing 76 games. The league's playoff format then determines the Calder Cup champion. The Calder Cup, named for Frank Calder, the first president of the NHL, is the trophy awarded to the AHL's playoff champion. 

The AHL is one of three professional hockey leagues in North America that use an overtime period to resolve games tied after regulation time, the others being the ECHL and the Central Hockey League. In addition to the 30 active franchises in North America, the AHL has had several European-based teams over the years. These teams were typically based in England, Scotland, or Ireland and featured many players who were NHL prospects or backups on two-way contracts. However, due to the higher travel costs and the fact that most European hockey leagues start their seasons in September (when the AHL is already underway), the league has had trouble sustaining a presence in Europe. The most recent example of this was the Manchester Monarchs, who played in England from 2001-02 until 2006-07. The Monarchs were owned by the Los Angeles Kings and featured many of the Kings' prospects and backups, but the team was ultimately unable to make a profit and was sold back to the Kings in 2007. The team now serves as the Kings' AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign. 

While the AHL has had trouble sustaining European-based teams, it has been very successful in establishing teams in smaller North American markets. In particular, the league has been able to tap into the growing popularity of hockey in the southern United States. The Charlotte Checkers, for example, are one of the most successful franchises in the AHL, regularly selling out their arena and winning multiple division titles. The Checkers were originally founded in 1956 as a member of the Eastern Hockey League, but they joined the AHL in 2010 when the EHL ceased operations. The Colorado Eagles joined the 2018-2019 NHL season as the 31st team and affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. The AHL has also been successful in establishing itself as a premier development league. In addition to the many NHL prospects who play in the AHL, the league has also produced several NHL head coaches, including current Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz. 

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