Rather than try to write an article that answers all the questions about the Golden Knights, Chicago Wolves, and their affiliation, I figured we should take out a step. Let’s just ask the questions, and then I’ll answer them. It’s the AHL FAQ, who knows maybe it’ll become a thing.
What is the AHL?
The American Hockey League is the premier minor league for the NHL.
Throughout the season, AHL players will be promoted (“recalled”) to the partner NHL club for a number of reasons. If an NHL player is injured, the team may recall a player from the AHL to temporarily take his place. They can then be sent back down to the minors (“assigned”) for a variety of reasons as well, including when an injured NHL player returns to full health. Every NHL team has its own affiliate in the AHL, from where more than 88 percent of active NHL players are graduates. -Golden Knights Press Release
Who are the Chicago Wolves?
An AHL team that was previously part of the now folded International Hockey League (IHL). The Wolves were founded in 1994 and joined the AHL in 2001. They’ve won multiple Calder Cups (the AHL’s championship), but it’s the minor leagues, so who really cares.
What is the agreement between the Wolves and Golden Knights?
The Wolves will become the official primary AHL affiliate for the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights will be able to send players to the Chicago Wolves at any point during the NHL/AHL season and will also be able to recall them to the NHL at any point.
Who controls hockey decisions?
Under the current deal the Golden Knights will manage all aspects involving hockey operations, such as personnel decisions, ice-time, and the hiring and firing of coaches.
Is this how the AHL usually works?
Normally, yes, but in the history of the Chicago Wolves, no. Their owner, Don Levin has always preferred to have control over hockey operations to ensure his organization had the best chance to win. Historically, that’s caused friction with the affiliating NHL club because their focus is usually on development rather than winning. Levin says his trust in George McPhee is why he was willing to relinquish all hockey decision making to the Golden Knights.
How do the financials work?
The Chicago Wolves pay the Golden Knights a fee to supply the team with players and coaches, and run hockey operations. The Wolves management team takes care of all of the business aspects of running an AHL team. All profits go to the Wolves.
So what happened to the St. Louis Blues?
The Blues, who had been using the Wolves as their AHL affiliate for the previous four years will not have a primary AHL affiliate in 2017-18. They will however have the ability to “loan” players to the Golden Knights, who will then assign them to the Chicago Wolves. The Blues will officially “associate” with the Golden Knights/Wolves, but they will be the only team in the NHL without an AHL affiliate.
What happens if the roster is full and the Blues want to send a players to the AHL?
If the Golden Knights do not have spot to place the player on the Wolves, the Blues will be free to loan that player to another AHL team.
Will it be this way for an extended period of time?
No. The agreement with the Blues only allows them to send players to the Wolves via the Golden Knights for one season (2017-18).
Is there a competitive advantage or disadvantage to “associating” with the Blues?
For the Golden Knights it can only be seen as an advantage. They have full control over an AHL team despite likely not having a full compliment of players. Therefore, they’ll be able to accept players on loan from another NHL team which will help field a more competitive AHL. Plus, it’ll be Vegas’ coaching staff choosing the lineups. As for the Blues?
I would think if it extended past this season it would be (a competitive disadvantage). Part of my comfort level is my relationship with George McPhee. The players they draft this year, it’s hard to get those 18-year-olds right into the American Hockey League, so I think it’s really quite honestly a competitive advantage for Vegas and us to join forces. I think they’re going to have a really good group of veteran players. I think we can supplement them with their younger players. We’ve talked to other organizations about assuming some of our (other) players. You’re always looking to bring in players from different leagues anyway, so I think we’ll be able to for one year to peace meal our group together but we’re all hoping this isn’t the case a year from now. If it went past this year, it would be a disadvantage. -Doug Armstrong, Blues General Manager
How long is the deal between the Golden Knights and Chicago Wolves?
Officially, it’s a multi-year deal, but both Crain’s Business and the Chicago Tribune have sources saying it’s a five year deal.
Will players loaned by the St. Louis Blues to Chicago be able to be called up by the Golden Knights?
No. Players are always under control of a specific NHL team, no matter where they are playing. The Golden Knights would have the ability to trade for the rights to a player and then bring him up to the NHL, but players loaned are otherwise still under Blues control.
Who are frontrunners for the head coach for the Wolves?
At this point they could really go in many different directions. Usually the AHL position goes to either a recently fired NHL assistant or an up and coming coach waiting for his chance to break in to the NHL. Vegas (who chooses and pays the coach) could really go either way.
Who has more of a say in player transactions to/from Chicago: George McPhee or Gerard Gallant?
This will likely fall under the now famous quote from the Golden Knights GM at the Gallant introductory press conference.
“We’ll provide the players and Gerard coaches them. We’re not going to tell him how to coach and and he’s not going to tell us how to find players. -George McPhee
So to answer the question, McPhee. Gallant will of course be able to make suggestions as he’ll be the one with the most intimate knowledge of what the team and each individual player needs, but it’s ultimately George’s decision.
Why Chicago, it’s so far away? Why not go to Reno, Salt Lake City, Fresno, or somewhere closer?
In the process of getting the NHL organization ready, it was likely not feasible to launch an AHL expansion team at the same time. Therefore, the Golden Knights had to find an alternative solution. With the Wolves, they were given full hockey control and were able to find a way to supplement their roster with AHL caliber players. Also, Chicago is centrally located in the United States and have multiple airports. Though the flight is a bit long from Chicago to Las Vegas, it’s easily accessible, and flights to all Midwest and East Coast will much much easier. The Golden Knights will likely leave Chicago at the end of this deal and move much closer to Vegas, but the time was just not right at this moment.
What about the ECHL?
The ECHL is the second minor league to the NHL. There are some pretty strong rumors that the Golden Knights and the Quad City Mallards will affiliate for next season.
If you have any other questions that you believe should be part of this FAQ, please put them in the comments or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will either answer them or work to find the answers as soon as possible.