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The third in the Life of a Minor League Hockey Player series – 

Age statistics in professional hockey has always fascinated me. Did you know in the 2011-12 season that the New Jersey Devils were the “oldest” team in the NHL with an average age of 29.34 years? The Detroit Red Wings generally rank high in this category, and they came in second with an average age of 29.178. The Colorado Avalanche on the other hand were the “youngest” team in the league with an average age of 26.067.

For the AHL, based on current rosters for the upcoming season for 2012-13 from Elite Prospects, the Hershey Bears ranks as the “oldest” AHL team with an average age of 24.82, and the youngest team is the Hamilton Bulldogs with an average of 22.17. The OKC Barons rank number 15 with an average age of 23.45.

The NHL stats listed in the first paragraph come from QuantHockey.com where you will find a number of age related stats for NHL hockey players, such as tracking age throughout the history of the NHL, for specific positions and even full distribution of NHL Team Average ages. To put it simply, teams are getting younger over time, however, experienced teams often make it to the playoffs more than inexperienced teams. Also, older players play more games than younger players who are just beginning their careers. In addition to that, forwards are generally the youngest players, and goaltenders are the oldest, with defensemen falling in the middle.

According to Elite Prospects, the oldest contracted players in the AHL at this time (August 26, 2012) for the 2012-13 season are:

  1. Wade Redden (35 yrs) – Connecticut Whale
  2. Trent Whitfield (35 yrs) – Providence Bruins
  3. Wade Brookbank (34 yrs) – Rockford IceHogs
  4. Josh Green (34 yrs) – OKC Barons
  5. Boyd Kane (34 yrs) – Hershey Bears

The oldest contracted players in the NHL at this time (August 26, 2012) for the 2012-13 season are:

  1. Teemu Selänne (42 yrs) – Anaheim Ducks
  2. Jaromir Jágr (40 yrs) – Dallas Stars
  3. Martin Brodeur (40 yrs) – New Jersey Devils
  4. Ray Whitney (40 yrs) – Dallas Stars
  5. Daniel Alfredsson (39 yrs) – Ottawa Senators

Last season the OKC Barons’ Captain Bryan Helmer played his 19th professional hockey season at the age of 39. As yet this summer he has not signed with any team, but if he does it would be his 20th season to play professional hockey. However, even at the age of 40 Helmer would not be the oldest player to have played in the AHL. That distinction goes to Chris Chelios who at the age of 46 became the oldest player in the history of the AHL. During Chelios’ 2008-09 season with the Detroit Red Wings he was sent down to the Grand Rapids Griffins for a 2-game conditioning stint and made AHL history. It should be noted that Chelios played for the Chicago Wolves during the following season, 2009-10, and broke his own record at the age of 48.

When the 2012-13 season begins we can take a look at these stats again to see if anything has changed and also look at the youngest players at that time. For now, the youngest contracted players are 18 and 19-years old and some of that group will return to their Junior teams, some will play in Europe, while others could well end up in the AHL or NHL (barring lockout), dependent upon the league rules.

Following are several AHL rules regarding age, development and veterans. The only age requirement is the minimum age of 18. The remainder of the rules apply to “games played,” which can also be an age indicator. (Source: AHL FAQ online.)

What is the AHL minimum age?

Per AHL By-Laws, the age limit for eligibility to compete in the American Hockey League is 18 years or over, on or before September 15 of each season of competition.

What is the AHL’s development rule?

In the AHL, player development is a top priority. The American Hockey League and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association have the following development rule in place for the 2011-12 season:

Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a regular-season game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, IHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.

Who qualifies as an AHL rookie?

Players who enter the season with fewer than 25 games of professional experience in North America (NHL or AHL) or fewer than 100 games of experience in a European elite league qualify as AHL rookies for the purposes of the Dudley “Red” Garrett Award, the Reebok/AHL Rookie of the Month award and the AHL All-Rookie team.

The AHL Veteran Rule from AHL Official Rules 2011-2012:

Each Member club must dress for each regularly scheduled or playoff game at least twelve (12) players, other than goalkeepers, who have played in a total of not more than two hundred sixty (260) regular season games in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League or any European Elite League, prior to the start of the season and one (1) player, other than goalkeepers, who has played in a total of not more than Three-Hundred and Twenty (320) regular season games in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League or any European Elite League, prior to the start of the season. Any player that participates in European Elite League games during a hockey season which the player would be eligible to play in the Canadian Hockey League (excluding an over-age year) shall not have such games count in the calculation of the two hundred sixty (260) regular season games.

Thanks to Eric Rodgers for addition information on Chris Chelios.

Join me again for the continuation of The Life of a Minor League Hockey Player series.