There will be much that’s familiar and a little bit of new in the 2012-13 schedule of the St. John’s IceCaps.
The American Hockey League released its schedule for the upcoming season and it shows the IceCaps beginning their sophomore season on the road in western Massachusetts, with an Oct. 13 game against the Springfield Falcons.
For the second year in a row, the IceCaps will start with a short two-game New England road swing; the Saturday matchup with the Falcons will be followed by a Sunday afternoon date with the Connecticut Whale in Hartford. Then its back to St. John’s to prepare for the IceCaps’ home opener, which will come Friday, Oct. 19 against the Adirondack Phantoms at Mile One Centre.
The Phantoms, the farm team of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, will be one of two new opponents for the IceCaps. The other is the Albany Devils, New Jersey’s AHL affiliate. St. John’s plays in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, and Adirondack and Albany were the only two of 15 conference teams the IceCaps did not face in 2011-12, their inaugural season.
This season, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the farm club of the New York Islanders, will be the only Eastern Conference team the IceCaps will not meet.
Glenn Stanford, the chief operating officer of the IceCaps, said the absence of Sound Tigers from the roster of opponents was not of St. John’s doing.
“Quit frankly, it was (the Sound Tigers’) choice. They didn’t want to play us,” said Stanford. “We were quite prepared to accommodate Bridgeport on our schedule. We wanted it. Zinger (Craig Heisinger, the general manager of the IceCaps and assistant general manager of the parent Winnipeg Jets) wanted it. Both us and Winnipeg (the parent Jets) think its important to play as many teams in the conference as we can.
“And except for Bridgeport, we’ve achieved that this year.”
As was the case last season, St. John’s will see plenty of action against the Toronto Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs, even though those two teams are in the Western Conference. The IceCaps will face the Marlies, the farm team of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Bulldogs, the affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, eight times each. Hamilton’s first visit to St. John’s will be Nov. 20, while the Marlies don’t show up here until the new year, with their first game at Mile One coming on Jan. 11.
The Marlies and Bulldogs are the IceCaps’ only Western Conference opponents, but Stanford won’t go as far as to describe Toronto and Hamilton as arch-rivals just because special efforts are made to make them frequent dance partners for St. John’s.
“I think you can say they are rivals now based upon history and geography,” said Stanford, “but I think real rivalries are developed by what takes place on the ice. Those will be determined over time.
“It could be Toronto and Hamilton. It could be someone else. You just can’t say someone is a rival. Rivalries grow over time.”
In addition to Toronto and Hamilton, the IceCaps also have eight games each against the Portland Pirates (Phoenix Coyotes) and Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles). St. John’s, Manchester, Portland, the Providence Bruins and Worcester Sharks comprise the Atlantic Division.
St. John’s plays the Bruins, Sharks and the rest of their opponents four times each.
Each AHL team plays 76 games (38 at home, 38 on the road).
Overall, Stanford is quite satisfied with the schedule, which is worked out over months and requires plenty of compromise among teams seeking advantages and preferred dates.
Almost three-quarter of the St. John’s home schedule consists of weekend games; the number of road trips for the IceCaps has been reduced from nine to eight and the overall number of nights on the road has been kept to under 80.
If there is a bit of a sore point is that the Christmas break, which for St. John’s AHL teams, has traditionally been a week or more, will be something less than this year. The IceCaps finish their pre-Christmas schedule Dec. 22 and resume play on Dec. 28.
“We would have liked to have had a few more days there for players and the players families to enjoy the holiday,” said Stanford. “We tried for more, but we just couldn’t make it work.”
- Of the IceCaps’ 38 home dates. 28 will be played on weekend (Friday, Saturday or Sunday). St. John’s has five Sunday home games, all with 4 p.m. start times. All other games at Mile One will begin at at 7:30 p.m..
- The 10 weekday games at Mile One consist of five Tuesday/Wednesday sets. The IceCaps have no Monday or Thursday home games.
- In all, the IceCaps will make eight road trips, ranging in length from two games to eight games. The latter jaunt is a bit of an anomaly, however, since it is wrapped around the Christmas break. Otherwise, the longest road swing is six games.
- Because of that pre- and post-Christmas road trip, IceCaps fans will have to make do without AHL hockey at Mile One for more than three weeks, from Dec. 13 to Jan. 4.