Sunday, September 5, 2010

The NHL needs to revive the IHL

At first glance most people are yawning. The IHL, which folded in 2001, was the second AAA style hockey league, much like the AHL. At some point the AHL was favoured over the IHL and declining affiliations lead to its demise. But, it was useful. The NHL, if it is truly interested in developing the game, hockey needs more players playing at a higher level.

The AHL is much like the NHL; players can be type cast or get caught in organizational politics. The revived IHL could give many players second chances without the NHL parent club losing rights. The NHL needs to support such an idea and put its money where its mouth is.

There are 30 AHL teams with varying degrees of affiliation. These AHL teams are spread out from East coast to West coast. It doesn't make much sense. Establishing an Eastern based AHL and a Western based IHL could help in travel costs. A shake up may be needed as well; there are many ECHL or CHL teams with great fan bases and ownership able to support a higher tier of hockey.

The establishment of a few independent teams would give more available roster spots and chances for players to develop and establish themselves, it also affords a team to loan a player who needs more ice time or to get out of the shadows. The AHL\IHL should also look at amending the veteran rule. A simple fact is some players take a little longer to round out their game. The NHL is losing too many home grown players to the European leagues, who may pay more on the surface, but in some cases the promises aren't realized.

An issue that has to be looked at as well is some cities aren't desirable destinations. If you give a player a reason to stay in North America besides money. It's an easy choice for some; money can be similar or better in the private sector for the educated players than playing hockey. There needs to be appropriate incentive and compensation needs to be improved.

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