Jan 29, 2017

This weekend the AHL's "Best of the Best" are on display at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA.

Successfully staging events as the All-Star Classic, including a skills competition, game and hall of fame inductions, are both labor intense and fan approved.

AHL Vice President of Communications Jason Chaimovitch takes us inside on the strategic planning of the league's brightest weekend annually.

Q: When does preparation first begin for the All-Star Classic?

A: Initially, as soon as the host city is determined. Sometimes the host city is determined nine to ten months in advance and as many as 18 months. This is when we (AHL) get into the "real guts" of it; right away.

Q: How is a host city determined?

A: Bids are accepted by potential host cities. Then, (AHL) we will be in discussion with them. I think when (the Classic) was in Utica in 2015, it was in late summer (2014), when it was announced that Utica would be the host city.

Q: Once the host city is established, what is next?

A: The host city takes the lead on title sponsors (2017 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Capital BlueCross). For example, in recent seasons, you had Toyota in Syracuse and Turning Stone Resort Casino in Utica. This year, Capital Blue Cross.  This is all part of a sponsorship package. As soon as the event is announced, the host city will canvas the local market for support.

Q: When would the AHL go to the host city, to get a better understanding of the host city's market?

A: Chris Nikolis (AHL Executive Vice President, Marketing and Business Development) and Shawn Smith (AHL Manager Marketing Services) spearhead the event. They are our two main point people. Shawn will make a site visit early on and locate a venue for the Hall of Fame event. This happens right away. I will check out where the media will be working; the press box and find a space for David Andrews' (AHL President and Chief Executive Officer) press conference.

Q: How many staffers from the AHL are involved in the Classic weekend?

A: Our entire front office (14 people). Maybe they aren't all involved in the preparation, but they are all on site for the weekend. Shawn made a trip (Allentown) last week. It's easier to do, when you're a three or four hour drive away (AHL headquarters are in Springfield, MA).

Q: Is there any pattern to who will be a host city; east coast, mid-west, or west coast?

A: We (AHL) recognize where we have been and where we are going. A team has to apply. This event is different from the major leagues. They parachute in and put on the event. Once on site, the host city's staff has a huge undertaking. This is a big task. We (AHL) don't just say the Classic will be in city "X". The team that hosts it, has to want it.

Yes, east, west, is in the back of our minds. Cities have to put in bids that are approval worthy.

Q: How much is the league involved in selecting broadcasters and on-ice officials?

A: The referees and linesmen selections merit seniority. In selecting broadcasters for TV, we have no difficulty in finding people to do it. John Bartlett will be back for his third year (calling play-by-play). He did the Marlies' game (six seasons as the voice of the Toronto Marlies), before joining Montreal (Bartlette is the play-by-play announcer on Rogers Sportsnet's Canadiens broadcasts). Brendan Burke (will be the rinkside reporter), we (AHL) used in the past. (Burke is the current TV voice of the New York Islanders on MSG Networks, and more recently for three seasons called the radio broadcasts of the Utica Comets.)

There are so many people out there, AHL alumni, who feel a strong tie to the league.

Q: What is the decision process of the honorary captains’ selection?

A: We look for a tie-in to the host cities. They have made a significant contribution to hockey and the AHL. When we (AHL Classic) were in Utica, there were a couple of former Devils (Bill Guerin & Eric Weinrich).  This year, Terry Murray & Danny Briere are the captains, who loved their time in the league.

The AHL All-Star Classic will be available in the United States, on 20 regional networks, and streamed worldwide on AHL Live to subscribers.

Written by Don Laible

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