This is the first time that the league's All Star event will be played in a city that is not a member of the AHL.
Since the announcement, there have been lots of negative comments regarding the league's decision. A large number of the negative remarks base their dissatisfaction with the fact that the league all but ignores the Western Conference cities for the event.
If we look a little deeper and examine the league, based solely on last season's attendance report (Western Conference cities averaging more than 5000 fans per game), we see the following cities:
Manitoba - 8404
Chicago - 7453
Grand Rapids - 7241
Lake Erie - 6568
San Antonio - 6411
Houston - 6326
Charlotte (played in the East) - 6312
Milwaukee - 5796
Texas - 5340
Peoria - 5196
These ten cities represent the top ten Western Conference cities in per game attendance for the 2010-11 season.
Reviewing the past ten All Star locations:
2010 - Portland
2009 - Worcester
2008 - Binghamton
2007 - Toronto
2006 - Winnipeg
2005 - Manchester
2004 - Grand Rapids
2003 - Portland
2002 - St. John's
It's true that only three of the previous ten All Star Classics have taken place in Western Conference cities.
Looking deeper though, the AHL is a cost driven league. Make no mistake, just because the league were to select a city and hang an "All Star Classic" sign out front of an arena, there is no automatic guarantee of success.
Cities have to want to host the event. Some may not want to do so, based on the level of commitment needed to produce such an event. Some cities have NBA teams to worry about scheduling around. There are other factors in the league's choice behind a location. Included would be sponsors for such an event.
Speaking of financial commitment to the event (from the AHL):
The first AHL All-Star event held outside an AHL city is being made possible through the partnership of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Caesars Entertainment and the American Hockey League.
My two cents is that as long as the league continues to show initiative in bringing its best and brightest players together in one place, that's what good for the game, not where the event is held.
If you're interested:
The 2012 AHL All-Star Classic, pitting the top players from the AHL’s Eastern Conference against the best of the Western Conference, will begin with the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m.; the AHL All-Star Game will follow on Monday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. Tickets for the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic, which include admission to both the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game, are priced at $52 for seats on the glass, $37 for lower-level seats and $32 for upper-level seats. Tickets go on sale Monday, Sept. 12, at noon ET, at the Boardwalk Hall box office, all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at (800) 736-1420 and at www.ticketmaster.com. For group orders, please call (609) 348-7021.