Teams galore for Bulldogs in upcoming season

Summer has just begun, but the Hamilton Bulldogs are already focused on winter.

The American Hockey League team’s 2008-09 regular season scheduled has been finalized and offers a smorgasbord of opponents. Twenty different opponents from the league’s roster of 28 other clubs will do battle with the Bulldogs, the feeder team for the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens. The 20 opponents will be the most varied for the Bulldogs in the 13-year history of the franchise.

A breakdown of the team’s 80-game schedule has 50 against North Division rivals. The Bulldogs and Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) meet 12 times, the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche), the Manitoba Moose (Vancouver Canucks), the Rochester Americans (Florida Panthers) and the Syracuse Crunch (Columbus Blue Jackets) play eight times each and the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) will be the opposition six times.

The Bulldogs, who hoisted the Calder Cup, the AHL’s championship trophy for the 2006-07 season, will also take on seven of the eight teams in the Western Conference’s West Division, including the league’s 2008 victors from Chicago. The Bulldogs will battle the defending champion Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers), the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild), Iowa (Anaheim Ducks), the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators), the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues), the Quad City Flames (Calgary Flames) and the San Antonio Rampage (Phoenix Coyotes) two times each.

The ‘Dogs will also clash with seven Eastern Conference squads. Hamilton will play five of the seven teams in the East Division including the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators) four times and the Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals), the Philadelphia Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers) and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) two times each. The Bulldogs will also battle the Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay Lightning). Norfolk is the only current AHL market that the Hamilton has not visited. The Bulldogs’ two scheduled contests with the Admirals will mark the first-ever meetings between the two teams since the Admirals joined the AHL in 2000-2001.

Hamilton’s list of opponents also includes two teams from the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division – the Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers) and the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings) two times each.

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Almost 85 percent of today’s NHL players are AHL graduates, and for the seventh year in a row, more than six million fans attended league games last season.