As Game 2 of the American Hockey League’s 2017 Calder Cup Finals entered the first intermission, AHL President/CEO David Andrews joined the Grand Rapids Griffins Radio Network for a live interview during the break between periods.
After talking about some of the league’s accomplishment’s over the past 23 years — Andrews’ tenure as the league’s figurehead — Griffins broadcaster Bob Kaser brought up that Andrews will be stepping down from the role as the AHL’s president in the very near future.
“I’m not retiring yet,” Andrews told Kaser during the live intermission interview Saturday night. “I’ve got another year, and possibly two years before I transition to another role. We are just going to keep pushing, keep trying to grow our league, provide even better entertainment for fans and help even more kids get to the NHL.”
End of an Era
Andrews has been involved in the AHL — the top developmental league for the National Hockey League — for 30 years now, previously serving as the Director of AHL Operations for the Edmonton Oilers’ affiliates from 1987 to 1994 before assuming the AHL’s president/CEO role.
In his time overseeing the Oilers’ affiliates — the Nova Scotia Oilers and then the Cape Breton Oilers —Andrews was awarded the James C. Hendy MemorialAwardd as the AHL’s outstanding executive in 1990 for his part in Cape Breton achieving 36 sellouts in the 1990-91 season. The Oilers won the Calder Cup Championship in the 1992-93 season before Andrews left to take on a larger role within the AHL.
Andrews took over the AHL presidency in the 1994 season from longtime president Jack Butterfield (AHL president 1966-1994), who later served as a Chairman on the AHL’s board overseeing the annual creation of the league’s schedule until his death in October of 2010.
“The American Hockey League would not exist today were it not for the efforts of Jack Butterfield during his tenure as president. He is a hockey legend and his contributions will forever be honored by the AHL,” Andrews said in 2010 shortly after Butterfield’s death.
Andrews’ major accomplishments over the past 23 years include the major 9-team expansion in 2001, including the addition of six teams from the now-defunct International Hockey League. The addition of those nine teams got the AHL to the 30-team league they are today and is widely considered one of the largest expansion efforts in the history of professional sports.
One of those six former IHL teams, the Grand Rapids Griffins, has been a very successful AHL franchise, winning the 2013 Calder Cup Championship and currently leading the 2017 Finals two games to none after a thrilling double-overtime win in Game 2 Saturday night.
That wasn’t the only expansion during Andrews’ current tenure as the league’s president.
After roughly three years of what Andrews called ‘ a pretty complicated process of negotiation’, the AHL expanded westward into California, moving six teams to the Pacific time zone amidst heavy pressure from the western-based NHL teams to move their affiliates closer geographically.
“Had we not found a way to satisfy them, I don’t think we would be the 30-team league we are today,” Andrews explained of the heavy pressure the AHL was under by those western NHL teams to make expansion a reality.
Andrews also noted the annual AHL All-Star Classic event as something he’s particularly proud of, something he brought back in 1995 after a 35-year absence.
“We built a really great All-Star Classic event that has stood the test of time, and has given us great exposure as a branding platform,” Andrews said.
The Nova Scotia native also explained that many of hockey’s rule changes over the past 23 years – the new overtime format, hybrid icing, etc – were pioneered and first experienced in the AHL before becoming accepted in the NHL.
“I think we’ve made a real impact on the game in terms of rule changes and development of the way the game is played now,” Andrews added. “I think from a player safety point of view, we have been leaders in that respect.”
At the end of the day, Andrews says he loves what he’s doing. His love for the game has clearly been shown over the past 23 years, and while he might be retiring as the league’s president within the next 2-3 years the plans for the future seem to be similar to Butterfield’s in that he will serve as a chairman on the AHL’s board for a few years after stepping down as the league’s president.
“I would have never imagined I would be here for 23 years either. It’s been a great run. Being in the finals never gets old – I’ll tell you that. What a great crowd here [in Grand Rapids] and two really good teams. It’s so much fun to be here. If you don’t have fun doing this, you shouldn’t be involved in hockey.”