American Hockey League creates Canadian Division for 2021 season

Place Bell, home of the Laval Rocket of the AHL, is seen Monday May 11, 2020 in Laval, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The American Hockey League's four Canadian teams will play in one of five newly-created divisions for this season.

The Laval Rocket (Montreal Canadiens' top farm club), Belleville Senators (Ottawa Senators), Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets) will play in the Canadian Division, with the season slated to start during the COVID-19 pandemic on Feb. 5.

The league says schedule and playoff formats are still to be determined.

The AHL is following a similar model to the NHL, which has grouped all seven Canadian teams together and will not have them cross the border until the final two rounds of the playoffs.

The Charlotte Checkers, Milwaukee Admirals and Springfield Thunderbirds have elected to opt out of play for the 2020-21 season, bringing the league down to 28 teams. All three teams will return to play in 2021-22.

Four teams have been granted provisional relocations for the 2021 season: the Binghamton Devils will play in Newark, N.J.; the Ontario Reign will play in El Segundo, Calif.; the Providence Bruins will play in Marlborough, Mass.; and the San Diego Gulls will play in Irvine, Calif.

The Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers) and Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames) are in the Pacific Division, while the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks) are in the North Division. The Canucks are sharing the Comets with the St. Louis Blues this season after Springfield opted out.

The Atlantic Division is the smallest grouping with three teams, while the Pacific Division is largest at eight squads.

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