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Florida Panthers AHL team won’t play, Charlotte Checkers opt out

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Charlotte AHL opt out
The Bojangles Coliseum outside of downtown Charlotte, N.C., as pictured in September. // @GeorgeRichards

The Florida Panthers will not have their own AHL affiliate this season as their new partner, the Charlotte Checkers, announced Monday they would opt out of the 2021 season.

The Panthers and Checkers officially partnered up this past summer after the Springfield Thunderbirds split with Florida and signed with St. Louis.

The Checkers, who play at Bojangles Coliseum outside of downtown Charlotte, N.C., were hoping to start their season on Feb. 5.

Springfield, coincidentally, is also opting out of its season. Three AHL teams (Charlotte, Springfield and Milwaukee) will not play; others are temporarily relocating to be closer to their parent clubs.

“While we are disappointed that we cannot resume playing at this time, both the Panthers and Checkers feel it is in the best interests of all parties to opt out for this season,” Checkers owner Michael Kahn said in a release.

“There are several travel, safety and player supply challenges to consider. Those, coupled with the increasing number of new cases in our area, make it very unlikely that we will be able to host fans at our games in the near future.

“We are appreciative of our partnership with the Florida Panthers regarding the navigation of this very difficult matter and will immediately focus our efforts on beginning the 2021-22 season in the fall.”

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The Panthers could find places for their prospects to play — perhaps even with the ECHL team in Greenville, S.C. where goalie Ryan Bednard is — or just keep them in South Florida and work out on their own.

This is obviously not an ideal situation considering the AHL halted its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March and did not resume play.

Without having fans allowed in the buildings, AHL teams just cannot make things work.

“Despite the travel and business challenges involved with this year,” Florida GM Bill Zito said, “we feel that this decision will not impact our player development system as we continue to provide necessary environments for growth.

The Carolina Panthers: Florida makes AHL move to Charlotte Checkers official

“We look forward to the continuation of our partnership with the Checkers organization and the puck drop of 2021-22 in Charlotte.”

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Donny R

Howdy, GR…assuming Coach Kinnear is in town for camp; do you suspect he’ll be brought on board in an advisory-coaching type position with the big club? Perhaps Leo Luongo as well? Seems an enormous waste of talent to have them sidelined until September (not even broaching how this affects the players). And what of their salaries in any case; are they paid or unpaid during a team-elected opt-out situation if not rolled into the NHL club in some fashion? Thanks man 🙂

Mark Weber

“There are several travel, safety and player supply challenges to consider. Those, coupled with the increasing number of new cases in our area, make it very unlikely that we will be able to host fans at our games in the near future.” Seems that would be true for every AHL team. Why are these three (including Charlotte) opting out in particular when the others aren’t?? Thanks for the update, George.

Jordan Moses

Hey George, kinda off topic but what do you think the emergence of Devon Levi and Spencer Knight at the world juniors means for the back half of Bobrovsky’s contract?

Karl

Any idea how “call-ups” are going to work? Are the minor league players going to be allowed to practice with the NHL team or are they on their own to keep in shape? Are the Panthers going to be able to keep more guys on their “roster” with nowhere to send them? So many questions, can’t be easy on anyone, especially coming less than 2 weeks before the season is supposed to start.

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