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AHL Adds Six Teams From Folding IHL

June 4, 2001 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ The American Hockey League is adding six teams from the International Hockey League, which officially folded Monday.

The AHL, founded in 1936, already had 20 teams and has become the main developmental league for the NHL. All 30 NHL teams will supply players to the AHL.

``Our need for player development is greater than ever,″ said Bill Torrey, president of the Florida Panthers. ``This is such an important event and it’s been an exhilarating experience. It’s a great day for hockey.″

The 56-year-old IHL, based in Detroit, had lost eight teams in the past four years and had 11 members this season.

The IHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, Chicago Wolves, Grand Rapids Griffins, Utah Grizzlies, Houston Aeros and Manitoba Moose are joining the AHL, which also earlier announced it was adding expansion franchises in Bridgeport, Conn., and Manchester, N.H.

IHL owners also approved the sale of the Kentucky Thoroughblades to the NHL’s San Jose Sharks and the transfer of the franchise from Lexington, Ky., to Cleveland.

Talks between the AHL and the IHL had been ongoing for two months and the franchise move was agreed to unanimously by the AHL’s Board of Governors on Monday.

The teams are paying $1 million each to join the league, league president David Andrews said.

The expansion means a larger audience for the league, which drew 4.7 million fans in 2000-01 and expects to draw more than 7 million with the new clubs. In addition, more than 200 games are expected to be televised live next season.


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