For its part, the American Hockey League is poised to help fill any game-action void for fans. The AHL has a deal in place with Sportsnet in Canada to broadcast an additional slate of games if NHL games are canceled. It also has begun discussions with NBC Sports Network and several RSNs about replacement broadcasts. Still, AHL commissioner David Andrews said his league hopes the NHL resolves its labor issues soon.
“While there may be a short-term bump for our league,” Andrews said, “there’s no question that the NHL playing is more important to us. It’s the best league in the world, and we are partners in the development of players and in the growth of the sport.”
According to Andrews, the AHL did see attendance gains during the 2004-05 lockout, especially in regions close to NHL markets. “We had a higher quality of competition,” Andrews said, noting that future NHL stars such as Eric Staal, Jason Spezza and Dustin Brown played in the AHL while their rookie NHL seasons were postponed by the lockout. “Marquee names attract media coverage and fans.”