Late start equates to a late finish

Brendan McCarthy
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American Hockey League poised to set record for longest season in history

It’s mid-June. We’re well into the Major League Baseball season. The NBA Finals have just clewed up. CFL exhibition play is under way. Soccer’s World Cup has begun in what passes for winter south of the equator Brazil. In golf, two majors have already been played. Same with tennis.

American Hockey League president Dave Andrews addresses the media during all-star game activities in St. John’s in February. — Telegram file photo

It’s a time for all sports, and interestingly — or perhaps oddly, depending how you look at it — that still includes hockey, as the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup final is played on the edge of the North Atlantic and in the heat of central Texas.

Game 4 of the series went Monday night at Mile One Centre in

St. John’s, with the Texas Stars staging a huge comeback by overcoming a 3-0 St. John’s IceCaps lead and 29-6 shot advantage midway through the game to win 4-3 in overtime and go up three games to one.

That means the IceCaps are in true desperation mode, needing a win tonight in the last game of the season at Mile One to stay alive in the series.

If they do, the scene would switch to Cedar Park, Texas, where Game 6 will be played Thursday, which falls on June 19. That would set a season longevity record by eclipsing last year’s Calder Cup final between Grand Rapids and Syracuse, which finished on June 18 after six games.

If the series goes the distance, Game 7 won’t be until June 23 — there’s a rodeo booked for three days at the Cedar Park Center — meaning the last competitive hockey of the 2013-14 hockey season might not conclude until two days past the solstice and the official start of summer and 10 days beyond the conclusion of the Stanley Cup final.

“On one side, it’s not something we are all that comfortable with, playing almost two weeks longer than the National Hockey League,” says AHL president Dave Andrews, contemplating a half-full glass.

“But it doesn’t seem to have affected attendance much. Our buildings have been mostly full or close to it. The media coverage we get when all the other hockey is over has been positive for us, including the fact all the games (in the final) are being televised across the continent.”

The main reason for the late ending to the Calder Cup playdowns can be traced back to their start, which came on April 23, a full week after the Stanley Cup playoffs had begun. Throw in some scheduling difficulties, most notably in the final, and the gap widened.

“On one hand, I’m supposed to say we don’t like it. On the other, I think it’s good, actually great, for our league brand,” said Andrews.

“But we will take a hard look at our playoffs and the way we have our series. We have to figure out a way not to get blacked out as often as we do from our buildings. We’ve actually been working hard on that for the last number of years, but we still come up against rodeos and conventions and who knows what and have to work around them.

“We can find things to criticize, and believe me, we don’t like the way it’s worked out either, but in the end we’ll still have great hockey, a great final and a great champion.

“Right now, that’s what matters most.”

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Organizations: American Hockey League, IceCaps, Texas Stars Cedar Park Center National Hockey League

Geographic location: North Atlantic, Cedar Park, Texas, Grand Rapids Syracuse

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