As the NHL is winding down towards their Olympic Break, things in the AHL are set to break for a different reason. The AHL All-Star Classic is set to take place in St. John’s, Newfoundland this season. The Skills Competition will be on Tuesday, February 11th with the game coming on Wednesday, February 12th. The city is rich in AHL history but this will be an All-Star event unlike one we’ve seen before.
This season, instead of featuring two teams made up of the best talent in the AHL, the All-Star Classic will feature a team of the league’s best taking on Farjestads BK Karlstad of the Swedish Hockey League. In the past, both teams participating in the event have been made up of AHL players. The game has featured match-ups like Eastern Confernce vs. Western Conference and Canada vs. PlanetUSA. This new match-up might turn out to be an exciting revamp to the All-Star festivities.
There are definitely downsides, though. In the past, there have been over 40 of the leagues best players attending the event. That has ensured that each team had at least one representative there. This season there will only be 22 players making up the AHL All-Star Team taking on the Swedish team from Farjestad. In fact, with this new format, 14 of the 30 teams in the AHL will be without representation this season. That means there are 14 fan bases without anyone to root for. Of course, AHL fans can cheer for their All-Stars as a whole but it’s not the same as having at least that one player.
Some teams did have representation, but had those players withdraw for various reasons. One such case is the Manchester Monarchs. They were scheduled to be represented by Martin Jones, who is currently acting as the backup goalie for the Kings, and Linden Vey, who had to withdraw due to family reasons. The AHL also recently announced that the lone Bruins representative, Ryan Spooner, had to withdraw and was replaced.
It also changes the spirit. During the skills competition, the players hang around in front of the benches and get a chance to bond with other players from around the league. When the competition pits the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference, it gives guys who are usually battling it out on the ice the chance to joke around with each other. It could end up being the same, but the teams will not have the connection of all having come from the same league. In most cases, players from the AHL All-Stars will have never come across any of the Farjestad players.
The current roster (as of today) can be found here. With a full week between now and the skills competition, there is still plenty of time to see more changes come to the roster. It will be interesting to see how this latest change to the AHL All-Star Classic goes.