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Hockey School
the professorThe minor leagues

What are they?: Quite simply, they are professional leagues that feature a less talented brand of hockey than the NHL offers. Some are purely for entertainment purpose. Some are developmental.

What is the AHL?: The American Hockey League is the industry standard of minor leagues. This is where the majority of NHL players learn the ropes. Teams in the AHL are affiliated with NHL teams. When an NHL team drafts a player and wants to best prepare that player, it sends him to the AHL for as long as necessary. The Lightning's affiliate next season will be the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons. John Tortorella was a coach for two seasons in the AHL. The teams play for the Calder Cup.

What is the IHL?: The International Hockey League was the AHL's top competition before it folded in 2001. This league also took pride in development of NHL players, but it wasn't as strict. The AHL has age limits so to best prepare prospects. The IHL had no such rules and featured older players hanging on to their careers. The Lightning's affiliate in the IHL was the Detroit Vipers. The trophy they played for was called the Turner Cup.

What is the ECHL?: The East Coast Hockey League features players and coaches who move on to the NHL, but for the most part, it is a league based on entertainment value in small cities. The Lightning’s affiliate is the Pensacola Ice Pilots. Brian Eklund, the Lightning’s third goalie, played for the Pilots this season. The teams play for the Kelly Cup.

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Head coach John Tortorella looks on from the Lightning bench during a game last year against Boston. Tortorella used to coach in the AHL.

– Compiled by Tim Sullivan

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