SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts (Ticker) - The American Hockey League found homes for its new franchises Tuesday, when it announced the realignment of its four divisions and different playoff and schedule formats for the 2005-06 season at its annual Board of Governors meeting in Amelia Island, Florida.
With the addition of the Peoria Rivermen, Iowa Stars, Toronto Marlies and Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, the AHL was forced to relocate several teams to balance its divisions.
The Eastern Conference was affected the least, with the Albany River Rats shifting from the East Division to the Atlantic Division to take the place of the Worcester IceCats, who moved to Peoria following the 2004-05 season.
The Rivermen are one of three new teams in the Western Conference's West Division, joining the Stars and Knights. They replace the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, who voluntarily suspended operations, and the Utah Grizzlies, who joined the ECHL.
Also leaving the West Division are the Grand Rapids Griffins, who relocated to the North Division to replace the Edmonton Roadrunners, who followed the lead of Cincinnati and suspended operations. The St. John's Maple Leafs became the Toronto Marlies, who will remain in the North Division.
The Atlantic Division also could have two members battling in the Eastern Conference finals as the AHL announced a twist to its playoff format.
While the top four teams in each division are expected to qualify for the postseason, if the fifth-place club in the Atlantic finishes with more points than the fourth-place squad in the East, it would compete in the East Division playoffs.