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Rockford IceHogs’ start to 2020-21 AHL season delayed until early December

Blackhawks prospects won’t play in the AHL until at least December.

Rockford Ice Hogs v Laval Rocket Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The American Hockey League had the 2019-20 season end early because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The League’s 2020-21 season also won’t start on time for similar reasons.

The Rockford IceHogs, the AHL affiliate for the Blackhawks, and the other 30 teams in the League won’t start play until at least Friday, Dec. 4, the AHL announced Thursday after a Board of Governors meeting. The date was the recommendation of the AHL’s Return to Play Task Force, which includes NHL executives and AHL officials.

The AHL normally starts its 76-game regular season schedule in early October. Of the AHL’s 31 teams, two are based in Illinois with the Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Wolves, who play at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. The Wolves were affiliated with the Vegas Golden Knights the past three seasons, but are currently without one after the Golden Knights purchased the San Antonio Rampage franchise and moved it to Henderson, Nevada.

The AHL said it “will continue to work with its member clubs to monitor developments and local guidelines in all 31 league cities. Further details regarding the 2020-21 American Hockey League schedule are still to be determined.”

The IceHogs went 29-30-2-2 in 63 games and were in fifth place in the Central Division (.492) by points percentage before the AHL suspended play March 12 due to the coronavirus. The AHL canceled the season May 11. It was Rockford’s first full season under head coach Derek King, who guided the IceHogs to a 29-28-3-4 record as the interim coach and fell short of the Calder Cup Playoffs after reaching the Western Conference Final in 2018.