I was hoping to have trade deadline updates, but it’s been pretty slow today. So instead let’s see if I can get all of this franchise movement straight….
According to the knowledgeable Dave Eminian in Peoria, moves are still in the works following the April 1 (not fools) announcement that the Rivermen had been sold.
The Vancouver Canucks have purchased the Peoria Rivermen from the St. Louis Blues, but it seems that the Canucks have no interest in moving their AHL affiliation from Chicago (where it is currently, and has been for two seasons) to Peoria, a couple of hours away. Ideally, they want to move their team to Abbotsford, where Calgary’s franchise currently plays and has a long-term lease.
Minnesota had been working on a deal that would move their AHL team (currently the Houston Aeros) closer to them in Des Moines, Iowa. That deal is allegedly on hold (or cancelled altogether) and Peoria is being considered as an another site.
Calgary wants to move their AHL franchise to Utica, NY, but first has to find a way out of their lease and agreements with the city of Abbotsford. The other moves make a lot of sense, but moving an AHL team for a far-west team like Calgary to the middle of upstate New York doesn’t make sense to me. Sure, travel would be a breeze for a team in Utica (Binghamton, Albany, Glen Falls, Syracuse and Rochester are all within a couple of hours of Utica…) but easy travel is a small part of operating a successful franchise, and call-ups would be a hassle. Ticket sales and sponsorship revenue is incredibly important to running a successful sports franchise, but if Calgary thinks there is enough potential in Utica, a city of 62,000 people, then I say go for it. Clearly, the AHL has done well in small towns in New England for a long time, and expanding to major markets outside of that small region doesn’t seem to be a focus of the league.
As a fan of the sport of hockey, and a team outside of the north east, I’m disappointed that this kind of move would be approved by the league and the Board of Governors. I don’t think that oversaturating New York and the north east with yet another team is going to help the AHL brand, or the league itself. If the AHL brand is to grow and expand, it needs to be in recognizable markets with the potential for growth. In cities where there is real name recognition and the opportunity to reach a totally new audience.
Other odds and ends from the east (the AHL conference I admittedly don’t pay enough attention to) that also may affect franchise movement:
- Any move of a western team (Abbotsford or Peoria) to New York means the Western Conference divisions will have to be re-worked again. Just for fun, can the Checkers move to the division with Rochester, Hamilton and Toronto? Maybe then Charlotte will actually play those teams. Plus, four divisions and two conferences in four years would be a pretty epic stat, eh?
- Allentown, PA will have a completed arena in 2014, and the plan is to move the Adirondak Phantoms out of Glen Falls, New York.
- There’s plenty of chatter about the desire for the NY Rangers to move their team in Hartford to Bridgeport. I have no idea where the Sound Tigers/Islanders would go, but the rumors are out there. There’s also the possibility of moving the Rangers team (currently the Whale) to Glen Falls.
- I’m probably missing some of the chatter… what have you heard?