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Ex-Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson picked as next AHL president

Former Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson will be the American Hockey League’s next president and CEO.

The AHL’s board of governors Friday unanimously elected Howson as Dave Andrews’ successor. Andrews served in that role for the past 26 years.

“It’s a completely different challenge for me,” Howson said by phone. “I’ve seen the league just grow in reputation and stature and presence over the last 20, 25 years. Dave’s been a tremendous leader. I care about it. I want it to continue.”

The 59-year-old, who has a law degree from Canada’s York University, takes over effective July 1. He is currently the Edmonton Oilers’ director of player development and previously spent six seasons as GM for Columbus.

Howson’s first management job came in the AHL, and he’s familiar with the history and tradition. After falling out of touch with the AHL while running the Blue Jackets, the Toronto native reconnected in recent years and was intrigued by the possibility of succeeding Andrews.

“There’s a unique purpose to this: You’re serving others as opposed to trying to win every game,” Howson said. “You’re acting in the best interest of the whole league, and I find that quite appealing.”

Howson said making sure every franchise is healthy and continuing to build the AHL’s brand are among his biggest tasks. It helps that he has a rapport with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and many GMs.

“We know what we are,” Howson said. “We’re a development league. You’ve got to make sure that the relationship with the NHL head office and the NHL general managers and the teams, we’re serving their needs. You’ve got to take care of the product first and make sure that we’re serving the (NHL’s) needs.”

Andrews is retiring but will remain chairman of the AHL’s board of governors.

“The American Hockey League from where he took over to where it is today as a business has progressed enormously,” Daly said of Andrews. “I think his legacy will be as an innovator and somebody who’s really helped grow the American Hockey League.”

Howson assumes control of a 31-team league that now extends to California. Andrews during his tenure oversaw the merger of the AHL and International Hockey League and expansion across North America.

“All very significant moves forward,” said Daly, who has worked closely with Andrews for more than a decade. “He’s also been very innovative and worked closely with our general managers in terms of testing rules and helping us understand the pros and cons of those rules.”

The AHL tested versions of 3-on-3 overtime and hybrid icing rules before they were implemented by the NHL.