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Chicago Wolves, Golden Knights And The AHL FAQ

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 ken@sinbin.vegas. We will either answer them or work to find the answers as soon as possible.

**

Shout out to Steve Carp (LVRJ), Danny Ecker (Crain’s Business), Jeremy Rutherford (St. Louis Dispatch), and Chris Kuc (Chicago Tribune).

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28 Comments

  1. WolfKeeper

    Last year the Blues took over the coaching staff in Chicago. It was widely percieved as a great move by fans. The team had their best record in several years, and the players were on record for being very happy with coaching.

  2. RJ

    Can’t wait to book my mini trip to Chicago to watch our prospects.
    There are plenty of direct plane tickets for less than $200 round trip between Las Vegas and Chicago, so there are definitely worse places for this affiliate to be. I was initially worried we’d be affiliated with Binghamton, NY. That would have been rough.

    You guys seem to have a weird beef with the AHL. Most Hockey commentators love flexing their knowledge of AHL, QMJHL, OHL, SPHL etc. Whatever, but I dont get it. AHL is awesome.

    • Phisig150

      Beef or perspective? It’s the minor leagues no one cares about who wins it all. It’s there soley for grooming NHL players. I feel the same way about college sports. College is just the minor leagues for the pros.

    • I think the AHL and ECHL are very important feeders to NHL franchises, but I can’t ever understand why the word “win” ever even enters the mind of people coaching, playing, or even watching. I’m a huge fan of competition, and for me, I don’t see minor leagues as true competition.

      • A Fan

        So Ken, if you feel that way about minor league hockey, what are your thoughts on college hockey, no true competition there either?

      • RJ

        I don’t even know where to begin.

        -For 28 North American cities the AHL is the best professional hockey team in town. For many of those it is the highest level team of any sport. These fans deserve teams that want to win every time they take the ice.

        -A culture of winning starts in the minors. If Foley is serious about building a culture here based on ‘Army values’ that has to start the day they sign their contract and continue through every level of the organization. “It doesn’t matter if we win” is NOT Army values, unless I’ve misjudged the Army.

        -Financially every NHL owner simply can’t afford to float several non-profitable teams just to maintain their pipelines. The AHL and ECHL need to maintain profitability to continue to even exist. That means these teams need to compete hard, and if winning doesn’t matter competition doesn’t matter. You might think people will show up just for the tee shirt cannon (some fans might) but most people attending AHL games are hockey fans, and I e never known a hockey fan who doesn’t care about competition.

        -You don’t see minor leagues as true competition. This is what boggles my mind the most. How? Why? Is the KHL true competition? Is the XM Liiga? Is the NCAA? Is the OHL? What makes the AHL different from these leagues? I cant even begin to understand this mind set.

        Why does it matter to me? Because I’m coming to your hockey blog because I presume you are a hockey expert. I value your opinion, but holy cow this opinion is suspect. I would liken it to my doctor saying “vaccines are fine, but I don’t view them as true medicine”.

        • PhiSig 150

          As a Knights fan I could care less about the Calder Cup. Are our young guys getting ice time? Is the coaching staff developing them properly? That’s all I care about. When the team moves to some garbage city like Fresno or other insert shit hole here, fans will go to games regardless if the team is winning or not because what the hell else is there to do in Fresno? Not sure why you’re busting Ken’s balls on this one. Quick who was the best AAA baseball team last year? Who won the NBA Developmental League? Would you go off on Buster Olney or Zach Lowe if they really didn’t care about win and losses in those leagues. I don’t give two shits about the minor league teams for my Dodgers (or Oklahoma in general for that matter) except for a handful of guys that might get a call up. It ‘ll be the same way with the Wolves. If you want in-depth AHL coverage I’m sure the wolves have a blog.

          Let me try to help Ken out. The players are obviously playing to win and to make the parent club. The coaches are coaching to win to hopefully get a shot in the NHL but they may have from time to time orders to utilize players in certain ways that will run counter to winning. Winning the Calder Cup isn’t the end all be all. Developing NHL players is. Like in minor league baseball you don’t pitch guys like its game 7 of the World Series every week. A lot of times they put guys on pitch counts or innings limits. Why? Because player development ultimately is more important than winning thus Ken’s statement regarding not true competition.

        • It comes down to one very simple principle, at the minor league level, there is not 100% dedication to winning.

          In the NHL, every single player, coach, executive, everybody have one single goal… to win the Stanley Cup.

          At the AHL level, there are many different goals. Coaches are focused on grooming players for the NHL. Players are trying to do their best to make it out of the minors and into the NHL. The focus on the AHL in many cases is also to win the Stanley Cup, not to win the Calder Cup.

          When a player is playing well in the NHL, they are given more ice time. When they play well in the AHL, they are taken off the team and put in the NHL. Ice-time, tactics, style, everything is meant to supplement the NHL team, not to win the Calder Cup.

          I’m not taking away from the importance of the AHL. Not trying to put down any of their players or fans. It’s just a fact that the end goal is not always winning. It reminds me of preseason games. Some guys are fighting for a job, others are trying to get their conditioning up, others are trying out a different curve on their stick. It’s not true raw competition.

          When you are giving examples of which leagues have what I define as true competition just ask the question “is every single person from top to bottom in the organization focused on winning the championship.”

          I’ll leave you with this. If the Chicago Wolves win 10 straight Calder Cups and the Golden Knights never break 60 points in a season, would that be a success? What about if the Chicago Wolves never win a single game in the next 5 years, but the Golden Knights win 5 straight Stanley Cups and have contributions from many players who have played in Chicago?

          Don’t take this to mean I don’t care about the AHL, or I don’t care about minor leagues. I do, but under one context, how will they assist in making the Golden Knights more successful.

          (We are planning on using this as a topic for the next podcast. Hopefully my explanation using my voice helps clarify as well.)

          • Phisig150

            Sports for the most part is a progression. High school players want to be scouted by colleges. College players want to drafted by pro teams. Players then want to showcase their skills enough to find a permanent home on the major league club. AHL is a vital pipeline for the NHL. No shame in that. It’s competitive in the way that players are all jockeying for pro careers. I’m sure everyone wants to win at the same time. Isn’t it more important, however,for a player to get a call up than make the AHL postseason? You could say the same for college. Yeah everyone is trying to win it all but if you never make it to the frozen four but make the NHL are you really going to lose sleep over that? Love the passion. Hope you guys bring that same intensity to Knights games.

      • PhiSig 150

        So I’m thinking ECHL and NCAA are like single A ball, AHL is double A ball, and the KHL is AAA.

  3. A Fan

    So I guess all 28 cities/towns with AHL teams are shit hole cities?

    Yes, teams need to ‘work’ some players a certain way to groom them for a NHL team, but anyone that thinks most players aren’t playing to win needs their head examined.

    I notice Ken didn’t answer my question about if he thinks college hockey doesn’t have any competition either. Ask the people in a North Dakota town where a LV casino owner built one of the nicest arenas in the country/world. He was a former goalie there and wanted to leave something before he passed. He was Ralph Engelstad who owned the Imperial Palace casino in LV. Ask them if there is any competition in the NCAA.

    • PhiSig 150

      Ok I ‘ve overstated. San Diego is nice. So is San Jose and most of Chicago. Bakersfield not so much and Fresno most certainly would be a shit hole. College is a different animal altogether. I think you’re not really understanding his competition comment. This is a NHL hockey club website. Sin Bin doesn’t need to cater to the hundreds of fanatics that have a hardon for the AHL. The vast majority of us will be keeping track of a few players on the Wolves but we really don’t give a shit if they even make the AHL playoffs much less who wins the sacred Calder Cup. Sorry if this attitude makes anyone ass hurt. I also don’t care who wins in college, the ECHL, and the KHL. There’s only so much time in the day to devote to sports. Minor league hockey will get maybe 5 to 10 mins a week of my attention as I drink my coffee and read a quick blurb about how our recent draft picks are faring. I think Sin Bin has done a pretty good job gauging and delivering what their audience craves the most. Ken even threw you hardcore AHL weirdos a bone by tweeting every DNP for our hero Reid Duke.

      • Ken was also on vacation while all this was going down. I’m back now and ready to debate if this debate is still on going. Fire away. (Though most of what PhiSig has said is pretty much spot on)

        • PhiSig 150

          I think it comes down to if more of a pro sports or amateur sports type of guy. I’ve always been way more into pro sports so when I watch college games I think in terms of if a player has the skill set to succeed next level and if that particular game helped or hurt their draft stock. Then when it comes to the minors I’m interested in how close they are to getting called up or if they’ll pan out at all. Amateur sports guys seems to be more into the idea that players should play for the competition and the pure love of the game and money ruins all that. Not that one of us is right or wrong it’s just a different perspective on sports. I see the appeal of college sports and I dig minor league sports I’ve caught some 51s games and its fun but nothing on the level of watching baseball at Dodger Stadium. I doubt I’ll ever catch a Wolves game on tv or in person but for the people that do more power to you just know those players you’ll fall in love with are only on temporary loan until my Knights have need for them.

  4. A Fan

    Phil, you missed my whole point here. This story written by Ken was about minor league hockey. You say this blog is for pro hockey only, maybe you should mention that to Ken then. The only thing I responded to here was Ken’s comment about the minor league not being true competition. I asked a simple question if he felt the same way that college hockey was not true competition as well. Whether you or anyone else for that matter has little interest in anything other than pro hockey/pro sports, it doesn’t have anything to do with what I was actually asking Ken. I was curious if he felt the same way about true competition on every level below pro, that’s all. He didn’t respond because it appears he was on vacation. (I thought when you run a blog, you don’t get a ‘real’ vacation? lol) So now that Ken is back to work, I’ll await his reply to my simple question.

    • Phisig150

      He compared it to preseason football so that’s kind of your answer. Players are playing and coaches are coaching for future jobs so in that context yes they are trying to win games. Pride and I’m sure love of the game also comes into play. But winning games is really secondary and the stakes just aren’t as high as they are on the NHL level. Do you feel winning the Calder Cup is the only goal and number one priority for every single player and coach? I guess that’s why I’m just not that into minor league games except for an occasional family outing, other than making the pros for the kids there’s really nothing at stake. You make the AHL out to be like the ABA of hockey. It’s not that big-time.

    • I’m back. You are correct, there’s never really a vacation, the site must go on (but sometimes the comment responses lag).

      As for college hockey, it’s challenging because of the age requirement rules, amateurism, and draft rights with the NHL. In theory, yes the NCAA is true competition, but it doesn’t always work that way with American college hockey. Players can be drafted and then enter college with their rights being owned by a certain team. These players could very well be focused on something other than winning, which can water it down. But overall, it’s much closer to true competition than the AHL/ECHL. The biggest reason for this is the coaching. In NCAA coaches live and die on winning games and cultivating a successful program. In the AHL/ECHL coaches are mainly out there to help young players along in their development to the NHL. Are there instances of certain coaches wanting to win, certain organizations wanting to win, almost all players wanting to win, of course, but the fact is the end game isn’t 100% focused on winning.

      To me there’s nothing like major professional sports at the very highest level. KHL is probably the closest second in regards to true competition, but even there they have extenuating circumstances. In the NHL, the only thing every person is after is the Cup. You can say some owners are after money, but every single one of them understand that winning the Cup will make them the most amount of money, and they each have different tactics of how they want to get there.

      Again, not bagging on the AHL or ECHL, or NCAA or KHL, WHL, OHL, whatever, just saying, the NHL is a majorly different game competition wise.

      • A Fan

        Thanks for the response.

        • Is it what you were expecting?

          • A Fan

            I wasn’t really expecting anything in particular, just curious as to your thoughts on the subject that you had brought up, although apparently off subject according to your ‘Sean Spicer.’

            As far as American college hockey, yes the coaches are there to win. As far as the guys who either come in already drafted by a NHL team or get drafted while in college, I don’t believe it alters not winning. The guys who are linked to a NHL team still need to prove themselves and that usually means scoring goals or preventing the other team from scoring, which then is the same thing they would be doing if they get to the NHL, both help in their team winning. Just because they have been drafted doesn’t guarantee a long NHL career. So I believe they are still pretty focused on winning while in college.

            Now Ken, you had better get back to the real subject of pro sports so you don’t piss off “Sean’ again. 😉

          • PhiSig 150

            Careful you’re going to run your Sean Spicer joke into the ground. I don’t presume to speak for anyone. Just giving my opinion. People that love college sports are fanatical in their love. You defended the honor of collegiate athletics admirably. I still don’t give a shit but I’m glad there are people out there like you that do.

  5. A Fan

    What are you talking about? I didn’t ‘make out’ anything to be anything. I asked Ken, (not you btw *Sean Spicer*) a simple question about a statement he made. I was waiting for Ken’s response.

    • Phisig150

      Sean Spicer ouch (nice one though). I just enjoy arguing sports. Does the A in your name stand for asshurt?

    • A Fan

      Hmm…asshurt? Just kidding. I know when not to go past the close, the Sean joke was done. I’m really a pro sports guy myself Phil, but have grown up very familiar with college hockey and how it works. I have no interest in other college sports, I like the pros also, NHL, NFL.

      Go VGK! (I still don’t like the name) Should have been Go LAS or LV…oh well.

      • Phisig150

        The name we can agree on. UNLV is division 1 now right? I’ve been tempted to go to one of their games.

  6. A Fan

    Yes they will be next year. They are in the ACHA though, so they probably won’t play the true NCAA power houses such as Denver, Duluth, North Dakota, Boston, etc. anytime soon. It is a good step up for them, but you might call it the ‘second tier’ of Division One.

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