The Binghamton Devils will join the New Jersey Devils in Newark.
If you thought the NHL season was going to be weird this year, imagine how weird it’s going to be for minor league hockey. The AHL has announced their season will begin on February 5, 2021, with 28 teams, as three opted out. Out of the remaining 28 teams, not all will be playing their games where they are used to.
Four teams have been granted “provisional relocations” for this season. One of those teams is the Binghamton Devils, the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. Binghamton will be playing out their season in Newark, New Jersey, just like their parent NHL franchise.
In fact, they will both be playing under the same roof, well, sort of. Prudential Center has the New Jersey Devils practice facility, RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House, attached to the area as one complex. The New Jersey Devils will, of course, play on the main ice in Prudential Center, while Binghamton will play their games in the practice rink.
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First, let’s deal with the obvious advantages of having both teams under one roof. The training staff can monitor and test players easier. In addition, call-up players will be much easier, as travel for home games will not nonexistent for prospects. Did you get called up to the NHL? Cool story, go down the hall and meet them there.
The New Jersey Devils have a luxury few other teams have. The Devils are one of only four NHL teams with their practice facility built into their home arena. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, and Detroit Red Wings are the others. While the other three AHL teams granted provisional relocations will be playing closer to their NHL teams, none will be sharing the same complex.
Two AHL teams already share their arenas with their NHL teams, the Manitoba Moose and the San Jose Barracuda. Neither complex has a practice rink attached, so both the AHL and NHL teams share the main ice. The Cleveland Monsters share their home arena with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association. Temporarily relocating to the Columbus Blue Jackets practice rink the OhioHealth IceHaus would make sense, although the team hasn’t announced any plan of doing so.
Having an in house training rink is a great amenity for NHL teams moving into a new arena. For the record, the NHL’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, doesn’t have one at T-Mobile Arena, but then again, there’s not much room on the Las Vegas Strip. There are no plans for the Seattle Kraken to have one either, but their home arena is a reconstruction of an existing arena and not an entirely new facility.
Obviously, relocating their AHL franchise to the area was not something the New Jersey Devils were thinking of when they build their practice rink as part of Prudential Center in 2007. They were more driven by the convenience of having all their facilities under one roof. Luckily for them, it came in handy for this crazy season.