Friday, December 13, 2013
The Associated Press
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - As the owner of the American Hockey League's Syracuse Crunch, Howard Dolgon isn't enamored with another NHL lockout, even though it's good for business.
He's torn, understandably. He loves the extra business. But he knows what the NHL means to the game he loves.
"It makes it maybe easier to market our brand, but at the same time I think every owner in the league will tell you that we really don't want a lockout," Dolgon said Monday. "I think it is important to us for the NHL to be playing and the NHL to be healthy.
"But that's an issue that we don't have any control over."
The AHL consists of 17 independently-owned franchises and another 13 owned by NHL clubs. Another prolonged NHL lockout like the one that forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season means better competition in AHL cities, increased attendance everywhere, and media attention that it is simply not used to.
"The effect then was a window of opportunity for the American League to have a greater presence from a media perspective across North America and certainly more live television exposure, and to some extent an even stronger player pool than we normally have," longtime AHL president and CEO David Andrews said. "I'm anticipating that will be the case again this time."
Among the young NHL standouts who could give the AHL a jolt are Carolina's Jeff Skinner, the 2011 NHL rookie of the year; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first pick of the 2011 draft by Edmonton; and New Jersey's Adam Henrique, who clinched the Devils' Eastern Conference title in June with an overtime goal against the New York Rangers in Game 6.
"We've always been the second-best league in the world," said Dolgon, who switched NHL affiliations from Anaheim to Tampa Bay after last season and has seen a bump in fan interest. "Now, we can be the second-best league with even greater talent playing in that league."
If the lockout goes beyond the start of the AHL season, Dolgon said he expects attendance will be up across the board.
"I don't know that we're seeing NHL fans flocking to our ticket windows, but I do believe that our current fan base is more excited, and I think that'll ultimately lead to more ticket sales," said John Bitter, in his ninth year as ticket manager of the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals. "Hopefully, we'll start to get newer fans on account of it. Our hardcore hockey fans are excited about this."