Canucks move American Hockey League branch to Abbotsford
The Canucks leave Utica, NY for Abbotsford, starting 2021-2022.
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The Vancouver Canucks are bringing their American Hockey League team home.
Eight years after first attempting to land their first minor league branch in British Columbia, they were finally successful, as the team announced Tuesday afternoon that they would be moving their AHL branch to Abbotsford.
The team are still in talks with the City of Abbotsford to finalize the deal and the move will need to be confirmed at the AHL Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, but the team appear confident the move to Abbotsford Center will happen.
“With the momentum starting to take shape, we are pleased to confirm our goal of bringing our AHL franchise and our Canucks hopes back to the city of Abbotsford,” said Francesco Aquilini, president of Canucks Sports & Entertainment, in a statement. communicated. “The move would provide significant opportunities for both our team and the community and would open a new chapter, bringing Canucks hockey to even more fans in the Lower Mainland.
The Canucks have based their AHL team in Utica, NY since 2013.
Aquilini also thanked the Comets and their president, Robert Esche, for their partnership.
“We are extremely grateful for the exceptional partnership and working relationship we have had with Robert Esche and the entire Utica Comets family,” said Aquilini. “Since 2013, we have worked closely together to create a first class hockey environment for our players and the big Utica fans. Utica has one of the best and most vibrant hockey environments in North America. We wish Robert, his team and the amazing Comets fans every success in the future.
For weeks now, there has been speculation that the Canucks are considering moving their team, after Esche filed trademarks for “Utica Devils” with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
The Canucks had the option of relinquishing their current agreement with Esche and its partners to operate their AHL franchise. Under the deal, the Canucks owned the franchise and supplied the players, while Esche’s Mohawk Valley Garden Inc. is responsible for the business side of operations.
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Earlier Tuesday, Rick Comeau, general manager of the Abbotsford Center, told Postmedia he had yet to have discussions with the Canucks about their team’s placement in the AHL there, but said that they were ready to host AHL hockey if the opportunity arose.
“I worked with the Canucks for their preseason game here in 2019,” said Comeau. And he’s kept in touch with the Canucks since then, hoping to host another pre-season game at the arena, which also played at the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat from 2009-2014.
“He sold out and was great for the community,” he said of the preseason game. “They know this place and our market.”
It’s a delicate balance to sign with a primary tenant like an AHL hockey team, he explained. In a one-on-one comparison, hosting a hockey game offers a lower profit margin than a gig, but when you get a tenant like a hockey team, you at least know you’re getting a consistent source of income.
“And you can maximize that,” he says. “We don’t know when (the bands) will be going on tour.”
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun was not available for comment but sent a statement via email.
“A key tenant at Abbotsford Center will provide continued strong community ties, economic benefits and further enhance the city of Abbotsford as a leader in events, entertainment and sport. The City is excited to speak with the American Hockey League affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks and we will provide an update with more details once the agreement is in place, ”he said.
The plan is for the Abbotsford Canucks (or whatever their name is) to play in the AHL Pacific Division. Most of the division’s teams are based in California, with teams in Nevada and Arizona as well.
Travel costs will increase for these teams, who will have to travel to Abbotsford to play games. Most of the travel within the division is by bus.