A Return To Atlanta May Have Fallen Short For Bruins “AA” Minor-Pro Affiliation

( Photo Credit: OurSport Central )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Word out of the ECHL and more importantly, the Atlanta Gladiators Franchise, the former “AA” minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins will not participate in the 2020/21 season. With the close of the 2019/20 regular season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the one-year affiliation agreement between the Bruins and Gladiators officially ended. There have been several solid sources in the past few months that have said another one-year agreement was definitely going to happen but a return to play is certainly difficult to predict with a potential second wave of this terrible virus.

Late last week the Gladiators announced that the Atlanta club has opted out of the upcoming 2020-21 season that the cancelation was recommended by the state of Georgia. Due to regulations in that area, public places can only operate with a strict 25% occupancy rule, and even if the Gladiators and Infinite Energy arena could go forward, they would pretty much take a loss with decreased ticket sales and sponsorships.

In a Gwinnett Daily Post article published on October 9th, 2020, Gladiators team President Jerry James had this to say below about the ECHL’s COVID-19 voluntary suspension.

“in the best interest of all involved in Gladiators hockey: players, coaches, officials, team staff, arena staff, and fans.” In addition to safety concerns, the team stated it could not achieve the standard of fan experience that season ticket holders and fans expect and deserve, due to these strenuous guidelines.

“This is a decision we do not make lightly.” “Everyone in our organization has pushed to find ways to make this season happen, but the economic viability of our business and the health of our community must be the priority. That is the bottom line for the decision to enact the league’s COVID-19 voluntary suspension policy.”

“We will return to the ice for the ’21-22 season, with our committed fans in the arena,” said James. “We have been here for the last 17 years, a staple in this community. We’ll be here for the next 17 years.”

Obviously, health and safety are at the highest priority but what does this mean for the few Boston Bruins prospects that might see time in the ECHL for the upcoming season? With no affiliation agreement and the opt-out policy, it likely means that B’s property and Atlanta roster players could be loaned to other ECHL clubs throughout the league. For instance, goaltender and B’s prospect Kyle Keyser who was expected to return to Atlanta to continue his minor-pro development could find another home for the upcoming season. Keyser spent a majority of last season on the shelf with a concussion and is expected to make a full recovery.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and travel, here are a few places that Bruins prospects could find playing time and close enough for scouts to keep tabs on developing players. A player like goaltender Keyser could find a place to play in Adirondack, New York with the Thunder, Portland, Maine with the Mariners, or even in Worcester, Massachusetts with the Railers. These three potential local landing spots for continued development for Bruins prospects are set to kick off their regular seasons with a 62 games schedule on January 15th, 2021.

The ECHL serves as a “AA” minor-pro affiliate to 26 NHL teams and plays an important role in providing emergency call-ups to the higher American Hockey League. The AHL had a tentative start date of December 4th,2020, but with the NHL also having that timeframe in mind I would expect that to happen with Covid numbers increasing and some NHL officials saying a start in early to mid-January wouldn’t be out of the question. This will also affect the start of the AHL 20/21 regular season as both the AHL and NHL work in close proximity to each other concerning season starts and finishes. For a better explanation of what the challenges the AHL has in store in the upcoming months as they plan a return to play, I highly recommend you give the Around The “A” Podcast below a listen as in this particular episode hosts David Foot and Partick Williams talk to new AHL President and CEO Scott Howson.

You can listen to the above mentioned Around The A Podcast episode on the Sports Podcasting Network by clicking the link below. This tremendous hockey podcast can also be found on the listening platform Apple Podcasts.

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