AHL realignment sees Heat move back to North Division

Abbotsford Heat fans can expect to see more Canadian content in terms of regular season opponents in 2012-13.

The Abbotsford Heat can expect to see a lot more of the Toronto Marlies next season

The Abbotsford Heat can expect to see a lot more of the Toronto Marlies next season

Abbotsford Heat fans can expect to see more Canadian content in terms of regular season opponents in 2012-13.

At the conclusion of the American Hockey League’s board of governor’s annual meeting this week, it was announced that the Heat would move back to the North Division, where they’d spent their inaugural 2009-10 season.

Abbotsford had been shifted to the West Division in 2010-11 – a division which featured teams from Texas and Oklahoma.

The North Division is a more natural home for the Heat in terms of potential rivalries, in that it includes two other Canadian teams – the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate) and the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens). The division also features the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche) and Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres).

Other alignment changes include the Grand Rapids Griffins moving to the Midwest Division and the Charlotte Checkers moving to the renamed South (formerly West) Division.

The formats for the regular-season schedule and Calder Cup are still to be determined. The season begins Oct. 12, and a complete schedule will be announced later this summer.

RULE CHANGES COMING

The AHL also announced a series of rule changes for the 2012-13 campaign.

• A video goal-review system has been approved.

• The NHL’s new rules restricting players’ ability to put their hand on the puck have been adopted. Players are no longer allowed to place a hand over the puck while it is on the ice to conceal it from an opponent, nor are they allowed to bat the puck with their hand in order to win a faceoff. Both violations call for a minor penalty.

• The AHL is also beta-testing a new hybrid icing rule for the NHL – a measure to avoid dangerous end-boards collisions. When two players are chasing the puck on a potential icing call, if the defender is leading the race when he reaches the faceoff dots, the linesman will stop the play and call icing. If the forechecking player is leading, play will be allowed to continue.