After a long summer off, Hartford hockey is back at it again this fall. The Hartford Wolf Pack will play 38 games this season at the XL Center under the marketing leadership of Global Spectrum. Every year the number one complaint from fans about the AHL schedule is a wish to see new teams. The schedule in the AHL is set up to favor travel which of course lowers costs and keeps the closest teams geographically as opponents. The Wolf Pack will never play the Western Conference teams and rarely play teams west of Syracuse.
If you can't see new teams what can you see?
This year you will see the same twelve teams but there is an angle on the schedule from a fan's perspective. This year the schedule is heavily set to stoke up the fire on some hot local AHL rivalries. The Wolf Pack will play 12 games each with the Springfield Falcons and the Bridgeport Soundtigers, the Wolf Packs two closest rivals. The interstate 91 rivals have a good history of competition against one another. Springfield had a great year last year and isn't a team that Hartford can expect to push around this year. The Wolf Pack will play other Northeast division opponents as well. They play the Adirondack Phantoms 10 games and will play the Albany Devils 8 games. All together the Pack will play 42 games of their 76 games against Northeast Division rivals. I think we will see quite a few players drop the gloves this season after getting to know some players on the opposing bench through so many games.
The Wolf Pack name will renew its rivalry with several other New England teams as well. They play the Providence Bruins, Portland Pirates and Manchester Monarchs six times each and they play Worcester Sharks four times. They also will see St. Johns Ice Caps and the Norfolk Admirals four times this year while playing the Wilkes/Barre Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears each twice to round out the remaining opponents.
The schedule favors the end of the week as 29 of the 38 games are on a Friday or Saturday. During the week the team will have five games on a Wednesday and one on a Tuesday. There will be three Sunday games this year as well, the first being on opening weekend.
This will be the 17th season of AHL hockey in Hartford. The New York Rangers top affiliate will begin play on Saturday night October 5 against the Norfolk Admirals. The team has once again had a good amount of roster turnover. There are always new players taking the ice to begin a new season at the XL Center. It appears at least early that the Pack is interested in keeping the defensive core of the team solid. All together the Pack signed three new defenseman to AHL contracts.
Brendon Nash is 26 years old and had been playing for Montreal and Hamilton in the past. Nash looks to be a solid defenseman with very good plus/minus numbers. He is still young at 26 but on an AHL roster Nash has some experience and probably will be in Hartford at the start of the season.
The Wolf Pack signed young defenseman Charlie Dodero. Dodero played most recently for the Sudbury Wolves. He had 7 goals and 20 assists for them in the Ontario Hockey League.
Mike Marcou was signed by the Wolf Pack as well. Marcou was the top scoring defenseman on the Rangers ECHL team the Greenville Road Warriors. Marcou's 25 points included a plus minus of 19. Defensively you have to believe that one or more of these guys can have a positive impact on the Wolf Packs upcoming season.