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AHL decision to cancel rest of season to impact three Pa. teams, including Hershey Bears

FROM WIRE REPORTS
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The American Hockey League has canceled the rest of its season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

President and CEO David Andrews says “the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions.”

The league’s board of governors made that determination in a conference call Friday. The decision was announced Monday morning.

It will be the first spring since 1936 that the Calder Cup is not awarded to the AHL champion.

The announcement isn't surprising considering Andrews said Friday, April 24, that the league was pivoting toward figuring out the 2020-21 season. Logistically, it was tough for the league to return this season without revenue from fans at games.

Bears among three Pennsylvania AHL teams: The decision will impact three Pennsylvania teams — the Hershey Bears, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins.

"The safety and health of our players, coaches, staff, fans, and community has always been of the utmost importance, so we understand and support the difficult decision made by the American Hockey League to end the season due to this global health pandemic," said Bryan Helmer, Hershey's vice president of hockey operations, on the team's website.

Hershey was having strong season: The Bears are the nearest AHL team to York, located about 35 miles north of Continental Square.

Hershey was enjoying a strong 2019-2020 season at 37-18-3-4, good for 81 points. The Bears were in second place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, one point behind Providence. 

"We firmly believe we had a great chance of bringing a championship to Chocolatetown this year," Helmer said on the team's website. "We are very disappointed that we will not get to see that goal achieved for our team and, most importantly, for our tremendous fans. However, during this difficult time, the health and safety of our community needs to be the number one priority."

Season was suspended March 12: The AHL said the standings – sorted by points percentage – and statistics as of March 12 (the date the season was suspended) are considered final and official. Those will serve as the basis for determining league awards for the 2019-20 season.

The 84th season for the NHL’s top minor league was suspended with 209 games remaining. That was the same day the NHL stopped play, though that league still hopes to resume and could have many AHL players as part of expanded rosters.

“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,” Andrews said. “The AHL continues to place paramount importance on the health and safety of our players, officials, staff and fans and all of their families, and we all look forward to returning to our arenas in 2020-21.”

Next AHL season could also be in jeopardy: The 31-team AHL hopes to return next season.

That remains uncertain, with the possibility of no fans allowed in arenas.

Professional Hockey Players Association executive director Larry Landon recently said he’s concerned about the ability of the AHL and ECHL – which canceled the rest of its season in March – returning if it’s not safe for fans.

Minor leagues are much more reliant on revenue from fans attending games at arenas than the NHL and other major pro sports leagues, such as the NFL, MLB and NBA.