The American Hockey League has announced that the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic will be hosted by the St. John’s IceCaps, the AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets. Unlike in previous iterations of the all-star format, this one will not be a battle between two groups of AHL players.
This season’s AHL All-Star Classic will take place between a team of AHL All-Stars and Färjestad BK, a top professional team in the Swedish Hockey League. The two-day event will include both an exhibition game and a skills competition, taking place at the Mile One Centre on February 11-12, 2014, just prior to the start of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament.
“The announcement today is really unique,” remarked IceCaps CEO Glen Stanford. “You’re going to have one American Hockey League All-Star team playing a team from Europe.”
This historic affair will mark the first time that a Swedish Hockey League team has ever competed in North America.
“The SHL is proud to be a part of this event, and it is a positive step in the direction our league is heading,” announced Jörgen Lindgren, CEO of the Swedish Hockey League. “Most importantly, we are proud to give North American hockey fans a unique sports experience.”
This specific Swedish team, Färjestad BK, is one of European hockey’s most successful franchises. The team has won nine league titles, including four since 2002. This is far from a cupcake game for the American Hockey League.
This match-up should excite a lot of people. Everyone from fans to analysts to scouts are always looking to compare leagues, and there is no magical formula for these people to do so. Comparing the high-end talent in different leagues doesn’t do justice to the depth of the teams in the league, but seeing representatives of each league on the same ice will certainly be a better barometer than debating which league had the better players go on to represent them in the NHL.
There should also be an incredible sense of pride on the line. AHL players should feel much more camaraderie playing alongside members of rival teams when they feel that they are representing their entire league and, to some extent, North American hockey. Färjestad BK players will be more familiar with one another, but also extremely focused on taking down a team of All-Stars from somewhat of a rival league.
As Stanford added, “With that international flavor and that bit of high competition, it’s going to be a great event.”
How will this game play out? Is this event a good thing for the American Hockey League and, by extent, the National Hockey League? Leave a comment or tweet me @BostonNumber9 or my team @TMMotS and @FanSidedNHL.