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Report: Flames moving AHL team from Abbotsford to Utica

Feb 24, 2013, 3:35 PM EDT

abbotsford heat logo

The Calgary Flames may be moving their AHL affiliate once again.

Don Laible of the Utica Observer-Dispatch reports the Abbotsford Heat will be moving to Utica, NY next season and signing a 10-year affiliation deal with the city. Utica hasn’t been the home to an AHL team since 1993 when the New Jersey Devils moved their farm team to Albany and became the wonderfully named (and defunct) River Rats.

The Flames’ history in picking locations to have their minor league team succeed have been dubious to say the least.

Their current location in Abbotsford, B.C. has been a money-losing venture and the team has also failed in Omaha, Nebraska and the Quad Cities in Illinois over the last eight years. Making matters worse, the Heat have the fifth-lowest attendance in the AHL this season.

Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald shares a statement from the Flames on the matter, via Twitter.

“We have been approached by representatives in Utica concerning an opportunity for the AHL. We understand they are building a case for the AHL to return there. We are under contract and committed to Abbotsford, and have made no alternate commitments.”

  1. rushledger - Feb 24, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    That makes four New York AHL teams and three NHL teams can’t go far in the state without finding a game during the season.

    • mattjt21 - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      There are currently 5 AHL teams. The Adirondack Phantoms, Albany Devils, Syracuse Crunch, Binghamton Senators and Rochester Americans. Adirondack is Moving to Leigh Station.

  2. nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 24, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    I don’t know this, but I’m guessing that having a Flames affiliate less than 50 miles from Vancouver might be a tough sell.

  3. tyler4richardson - Feb 24, 2013 at 3:53 PM

  4. rushledger - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Oh good call Matt I forgot about Syracuse

  5. rushledger - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Haha and Rochester sorry as a falcons fan we don’t ever see Rochester.

  6. bigoldorcafromvan - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    I wonder how long it would take the Canucks to buy the Wolves and move them to Abbotsford? That would probably fill the building.

    • handsofsweed - Feb 24, 2013 at 7:41 PM

      The Abbotsford Wolves would make a great name!

      • kicksave1980 - Feb 24, 2013 at 11:49 PM

        The Wolves aren’t going anywhere. I cheered for the Wolves before they became Vancouver’s affiliate (As a Canucks fan, you can understand…you wouldn’t cheer for a Hawks AHL team 😉

        In all seriousness, though, the Wolves have always done well in the Chicago suburbs, and they came into existence at the right time. When the Hawks were terrible in the late 90’s-mid 00’s, it was easier to find a Wolves fan than a Blackhawks fan. Cheap(er) tickets, nice arena, and a lot easier for people in the Western suburbs than going downtown.

        And also, I’ve never understood the reasoning behind having an affiliate so far away from the home club. Even in the days of air travel, it makes call-ups harder, and you don’t really build a fan base, because fans of the farm team usually don’t follow the affiliation after it inevitably leaves.

  7. winstonnilesroomford - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    Canucks ownership has already talked to the flames about putting a team in Abbotsford instead of the heat. Within the next 2 years I bet the canucks farm team will be in Abbotsford. Chicago was just a last minute move when the moose got replaced by the jets.

  8. thehighcountrybear - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Abbotsford will be a graveyard for hockey, regardless of team affiliations. It’s the centre of a large conservative fundamentalist farming community who by notions of pacifism and a belief system advocating non-violence are naturally repelled by hockey, an innately savage and violent sport. Good on them I say…

  9. atwatercrushesokoye - Feb 24, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Having a team in Utica means 2 flights to get callups to Calgary, why not just trade minor league contracts with the Canucks, they can have Abbotsford, and Calgary gets a temporary solution in Chicago which is a direct flight away. Ideally they would put their minor league team in Saskatoon or Regina but there’s likely no way to do that without probably killing the CHL franchises in those cities.

  10. Gerda Peachey - Feb 24, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    Whatever multi-millionaire hockey team owners do, let them do it on their own dime.

    This odious $5.7 million guarantee our mayor and council agreed to can only be called THEFT of our tax dollars.

    City councils have no business dabbling in bringing big-name entertainment, nor professional sports.

    Abbotsford council and staff wanted to play big-shot, with our money. Their only job should be to tend to running a clean, safe, functional city. Parks, rinks and pools for our locals, Yes!! Our taxes to the owners of the Calgary Flames, – NO!

    Leave professionals to tend to big glamour amusements. They have the expertise, and do not wade into money-losing propositions, unlike our foolish leaders in Abbotsford.

  11. Jack Bauer 24 - Feb 24, 2013 at 9:51 PM

    How the Economically, depressed struggling state of NY can house another AHL team is baffling. Utica? are you serious lol, their building is a disaster unless someone renovated it … Albany is a joke , I have no idea how the Devils/River Rats franchise has survived as long as it has with such poor support from that fan base in that gloomy area . Adirondack lost hockey in the 90’s and it’s been a temporary home for the Flyers for the past 4 seasons, with not one Playoff appearance , their attendance sucks as well. Binghamton is a dying little town with nothing going for it anymore , from what Im told there is nothing else but hockey games to do in there Winter months , so I guess they are somewhat stable of a franchise , leaving Rochester and Syracuse which might i add must be thrilled to have another bottom feeding franchise to travel to .

    • sgny1 - Feb 24, 2013 at 10:46 PM

      Jack Bauer. Ridiculous comment about Albany being a “gloomy area”. The Capital Region is actually a great place to live. There are new housing developments going up everywhere you look and new businesses being built all around the area as well. Many new jobs have come to the area and more are expected as the area transforms itself into a tech hub. I had to respond to your ignorant comment first. Now, regarding the Albany Devils attendance, there is no doubt that it is low, but it does compete with two popular college hockey teams in Union and RPI and NYC is a short drive away to catch an NHL game. So, with that said, please keep the negative comments to yourself when talking about this area. Best of luck to the Utica area as well. I hope that they show up and support this new team.

    • uticahockey - Feb 25, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Here is where it actually does make sense for the AHL to return to Utica. Look at the current map of AHL teams.

      Utica is very centrally located meaning reduced travel costs plus it is much less expensive to play out of a smaller venue. The AHL has a lot of teams playing in 15,000+ seat arenas with less than a third of the seats sold for many games. In cities like Binghamton and Glens Falls they are routinely 80% filled in their roughly 4600 seat arenas. Utica only seats around 4000 but a crowd of 3300 in Utica and the building is rocking where as a crowd of 3300 in most AHL rinks what you notice is a sea of empty seats.

  12. charleslouis99 - Feb 24, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    How are the wolves doing attendance wise? I figured since they are Vancouver’s farm team they wouldn’t have many fans in Chicago. Just a hunch.

    • kicksave1980 - Feb 24, 2013 at 11:52 PM

      The Wolves are 2nd in the AHL attendance, according to the AHL’s website. It’s true that I stopped caring about the Wolves when they affiliated with the Canucks, but they’re VERY popular amongst the people in the western suburbs. They really do have a lot of hardcore fans there.

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