Lake Erie Monsters will prepare to frighten AHL opponents next season

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The Monsters will be based in Cleveland. The dormant Cincinnati franchise could be headed for Illinois, where the Chicago Wolves already play. The Wolves are affiliated with the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Chicago Blackhawks would shift their affiliation from Virginia's Norfolk Admirals to the new team if it becomes a reality. Andrews left the impression it was a done deal when he talked about finding new affiliation for the Admirals.

"Norfolk will be our most important issue after the all-star break," said Andrews.

The health of the league is good, Andrews said during his annual all-star game review. He cited growth to 28 from 15 teams in the last three years and average attendance this season of from 5,000 to 6,000 - up slightly, overall, from last season.

AHL players will adopt the sleek new uniform designs that will be used by NHL teams next season, he said, adding that consideration is being given to slightly shortening the 80-game schedule.

"There is some momentum for that," said Andrews.

NHL parents would like farmhands to have more practice time than they are now getting.

Making visors mandatory has been a success, he said. Feedback from trainers around the league "is glowing on the impact this has had on reducing facial injuries." NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was keenly interested in hearing during his league's all-star break in Dallas last week, just how the visors are being accepted by players, Andrews said.

The cost factor will keep the one-referee system in place in the AHL, said Andrews.

While NHL shootouts call for three players per side in the first round, the AHL goes with five shooters a side to start - and it isn't eager to conform to the NHL's system, said Andrews.