Top Hockey Minor League Affiliate Cancels Season as NHL Reportedly Focuses on Two Return Plans

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By , RADIO.COM

The NHL's top minor league affiliate canceled the remainder of its season and playoffs on Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The American Hockey League officially suspended the balance of the 2019-20 season so it can focus on restarting next season, said league president Dave Andrews.

"After a lengthy review process, the American Hockey League has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions," a statement said. "The League's operational focus has turned toward actively preparing for the 2020-21 season. We are very grateful to the National Hockey League and its teams for their support and leadership in navigating through the challenges faced over the past two months."

The decision was announced after a vote by the AHL's board of governors, the league said, and marks the first time the league finished a season before naming a champion since its inception in 1936.

The move comes nearly two months to the day that the AHL suspended its season, along with the NHL, on March 12 due to the public health crisis.

An ESPN report noted minor league hockey, unlike the NHL, is driven primarily by gates sales, and with little chance of arenas being full of fans any time soon, it made little sense for the AHL to hold out for a potential return.

Meanwhile, the NHL is reportedly considering two possible paths for a potential return of game action to finish out the 2019-20, according to Newsday.

One such scenario would involve allowing 24 teams to finish off the regular season to determine who reaches the playoffs, as well as seeding. A second proposal would see the league advance directly to its playoffs without finishing the regular season.

The league was previously reported to have been considering a "biosphere" proposal where teams would be sequestered to one of a small handful of cities, with venues closed to fans, where the teams would play all their games without having to travel.

It was unclear whether the AHL decision hinted at any news in the offing from the NHL. From a roster perspective, NHL teams typically have unlimited recalls from the AHL once its season is over, according to the ESPN report.