This year the Canucks announced a new ECHL affiliate, the Alaska Aces based out of Anchorage, Alaska. Yet their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate remains in Utica, New York on the East Coast of the United States. They need to move the Utica Comets west.
The Vancouver Canucks Need to Move the Utica Comets West
The NHL made a change to even the conferences in the AHL, swapping some ECHL teams and their AHL affiliates. They put some ECHL teams on the East Coast while bringing their AHL affiliate to the West Coast. National Hockey League (NHL) franchises that were part of this shift included the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, and then last year the Arizona Coyotes.
The Vancouver Canucks remain the only West Coast NHL franchise that haven’t brought their AHL affiliate to the West Coast. With the Comets in New York it’s harder to get a player on short notice, which means they end up turning to their lower level affiliate in the ECHL, the Alaska Aces. This season Vancouver called up Michael Garteig from their ECHL affiliate in Alaska instead of grabbing someone from Utica.
Some fans may get upset that cities lose teams, but when Arizona moved the Springfield Falcons to Tucson, the Portland Pirates moved to Springfield and are now known as the Springfield Thunderbirds. This did leave Portland, Maine without a team, but with all the moves going on don’t be surprised if Portland gets a team back in the next few years.
The Montreal Canadiens will be relocating their AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps to Laval, Quebec for the 2017 season where they’ll be known as Laval Rocket. Another move happening for the 2017 season will be the Binghamton Senators relocating to Belleville, Ontario where they’ll be known as the Belleville Senators.
As for the Canucks AHL franchise, the Utica Comets, there are a couple places in British Columbia they could move to. One option is Abbotsford, BC who lost the Flames AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat after the 2013-2014 AHL season. The other option is Vancouver, BC in Pacific Coliseum that was recently vacated when the Vancouver Giants Western Hockey League (WHL) franchise relocated to Langley, BC but kept the name Vancouver.
Making the right move
The Canucks should relocate the team to Abbotsford. Vancouver has the Canucks, and doesn’t truly have the population to sell out two levels of hockey repeatedly. Abbotsford doesn’t have a team, and is far enough away that they could possibly fill the arena, without stealing from the Canucks market.
One reason the Heat struggled with attendance was that they were the Calgary Flames affiliate, a clear rival to Canuck fans. A chance to see their team’s future stars is sure to draw more interest. As for Utica, there have been rumors of other NHL franchises moving their affiliate there if the Canucks relocate the Comets to the West Coast.