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AHL Franchise Relocation News & Rumors

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Sometimes it's almost as if the entire Lower Mainland has a culture of entitlement. Must be all those nouveaux-riches and being the only major Canadian city without crap weather. The riot was just a temper tantrum writ large. Have you ever heard anyone call Vancouver a "blue-collar town" in the last fifteen, twenty years?

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Andy Strickland of 590 The Fan in St. Louis is reporting the Blues have sold the Rivermen to the Canucks, so it's all going according to plan.

Now it's official:

Kanakkusu soku zan

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They're going to Abbotsford after Vancouver buys them, the Flames are moving the Heat franchise to Utica, and the Blues are affiliating with the Wolves. Also, the Aeros are probably moving to Des Moines, because uprooting a team with a 19-year history of strong attendance and plopping it in a market saturated with established junior teams to shave 90 minutes on flights for callups is apparently savvy business.

Related: I hate everything.

There's also that little thing called a lease issue in Houston. This isn't the Wild trying to save a little time on call up flights. The Toyota Center doesn't really want the Aeros back for some reason.

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Wow. Guess minor-league hockey was pulling too much attention from Les Alexander's perpetually bland and fumbling basketball endeavor.

Houston seems like a great place to go if you hate sports.

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Interesting/horrifying scenario posited by Pass It To Bulis. Apparently the Canucks just tried to buy Abbotsford outright from the Flames, but that didn't work out, probably because Calgary's happy to stay put as long as Abby keeps on Glendaling itself. So if the Flames don't pack up for Utica, is it possible we'll see two AHL teams stuck out in British Columbia's meth belt come next season? I'm sure Chilliwack would welcome the return of a major tenant. and a chance to extra-ruin Abbotsford in the process.

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I'm still trying to wrap my (infuriated) head how the Blues think any aspect of this deal benefits them more. Particularly since they apparently are going to have this huge crop of AHL-level players ready to, um, moulder on the Wolves' bench. The Blues must have attended a player development seminar hosted by the Rams and its clearly working wonders here.

It was just pointed out to me that on the current roster, the only Blues players who played a significant number of games in Peoria are Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves, Ian Cole, and Jake Allen.

So we may be overstating the developmental side of things. The best players in the league really do tend to skip right through the AHL to the league (or have a very short stint) or do their developing closer to home in Europe.

I'm still skeptical on this whole thing, but maybe it's not as bad as I thought.

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The situation in Houston is directly linked to the bad-blood that exists between Les Alexander and Aeros minority-owner Chuck Watson. Some of the feud is due to the fact that Alexander feels Watson was a less-than-ideal landlord to the Houston Rockets when the latter gentlemen was managing the Summit. Further, animosity between the two men was exacerbated when they each organized separate bids to land an NHL expansion franchise for Houston back in the late '90s.

Combine the differences between Alexander and Watson with the Wild's being open -quite naturally, I think - to having their top minor-league affiliate located closer to the parent-club's home market, and the relocation of the Aeros isn't the least bit surprising.

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So this is all because the Canucks are God's special little children who simply can't be made to play their prospects anywhere but in their back yard, despite the fact that their back yard is about a thousand miles away from the rest of the league. Of course it is.

Not so much. After all, it isn't as if the Canucks are the only NHL franchise from the western half of the continent who have explored the possibility of moving their top minor-pro affiliate closer to the parent-franchise's base of operations.

For the better part of a decade, ownership and/or management in Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, and Vancouver have been letting the brass at AHL headquarters know that they'd like to see the league work towards establishing a division of teams based in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. When AEG launched the Ontario Reign, the move was at least partially made with an eye towards moving the Kings' top minor-pro affiliate from Manchester once other western NHL franchises made similar moves. Calgary's moving their top affiliate to Abbotsford was done for similar reasons, though the Flames overestimated their ability to crack the hold that the Canucks have on the marketplace.

Truth be told, no matter how highly they speak of their current situations, the Ducks, Avalanche, Oilers, Kings, Coyotes, and Sharks will all jump at the chance to move their AHL affiliates west once they're convinced that the critical mass necessary to create a division has been reached. Of course, in some cases, they'll also have to convince current owners to sell their AHL operating licenses, or relocate. That said, the desire and willingness on the part of the NHL parent organizations already exists.

Vancouver is simply taking steps that the eight westernmost NHL franchises have been talking about for years.

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Interesting/horrifying scenario posited by Pass It To Bulis. Apparently the Canucks just tried to buy Abbotsford outright from the Flames, but that didn't work out, probably because Calgary's happy to stay put as long as Abby keeps on Glendaling itself. So if the Flames don't pack up for Utica, is it possible we'll see two AHL teams stuck out in British Columbia's meth belt come next season? I'm sure Chilliwack would welcome the return of a major tenant. and a chance to extra-ruin Abbotsford in the process.

Chilliwack is doing just fine with the BCHL. Leading the league in attendance, iirc. They place I could see the Canucks going would be Penticton. They already hold their rookie tournament there and the South Okanagon Events Center is newer and better equipped than Prospera Centre. Plus, I think the Rockets in Kelowna would be able to withstand an AHL team down the road better than the Bruins were able to.

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I'm still trying to wrap my (infuriated) head how the Blues think any aspect of this deal benefits them more. Particularly since they apparently are going to have this huge crop of AHL-level players ready to, um, moulder on the Wolves' bench. The Blues must have attended a player development seminar hosted by the Rams and its clearly working wonders here.

It was just pointed out to me that on the current roster, the only Blues players who played a significant number of games in Peoria are Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves, Ian Cole, and Jake Allen.

So we may be overstating the developmental side of things. The best players in the league really do tend to skip right through the AHL to the league (or have a very short stint) or do their developing closer to home in Europe.

I'm still skeptical on this whole thing, but maybe it's not as bad as I thought.

That's because the post-lockout Blues were so bad anybody who could skate and hold a stick for more than 10 seconds would qualify for playing time. The team has apparently finally developed the NHL-level depth that starting next season it would be possible to stash people in the AHL for serious seasoning.

Interesting/horrifying scenario posited by Pass It To Bulis. Apparently the Canucks just tried to buy Abbotsford outright from the Flames, but that didn't work out, probably because Calgary's happy to stay put as long as Abby keeps on Glendaling itself. So if the Flames don't pack up for Utica, is it possible we'll see two AHL teams stuck out in British Columbia's meth belt come next season? I'm sure Chilliwack would welcome the return of a major tenant. and a chance to extra-ruin Abbotsford in the process.

I hate everything.

EDIT for expansion. One of the things I have been wondering, and I have nothing to back this up, is that since the $90,000 lease buyout was so laughably low that no sane arena owner would have used it when setting up the lease, that it is a negotiated pittance to "make things square" and there already is a replacement team in the wings. Who knows, Peoria might get Calgary after all for a parent.

Mind you, I'd class getting Calgary's AHL team as 3rd in my list of preferred outcomes for Rivermen replacement-1st would be AHL team that isn't Calgary's, 2nd would be ECHL.

4th is short term dormancy while they work on one and two and 5th is Central Hockey League.

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Perhaps Peoria gets the Aeros.

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Perhaps Peoria gets the Aeros.

That would be ideal from a Peoria perspective, if not for the league at large.

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So, here's a theory based in nothing concrete whatsoever.

BiB mentioned the acrimony between Les Alexander and the Aeros' minority owner, but it's still a bit of a puzzler as to why he'd boot out a guaranteed 38 arena dates, especially since the Rockets and Aeros have been able to co-exist under their current arrangement for several years.

What if Alexander is tossing out the Aeros because he intends to bring in the Coyotes?

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Longshot, because we'd have heard murmurs by now, and the murmurs we have heard about Alexander are that he's lost a lot of his fortune. It's more likely that it's another Thrashers situation, emptying out the arena for more concerts and things.

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And haven't the Aeros been having venue disagreements for years? This seems more likely a culmination of that.

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So this is all because the Canucks are God's special little children who simply can't be made to play their prospects anywhere but in their back yard, despite the fact that their back yard is about a thousand miles away from the rest of the league. Of course it is.

Not so much. After all, it isn't as if the Canucks are the only NHL franchise from the western half of the continent who have explored the possibility of moving their top minor-pro affiliate closer to the parent-franchise's base of operations.

For the better part of a decade, ownership and/or management in Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, and Vancouver have been letting the brass at AHL headquarters know that they'd like to see the league work towards establishing a division of teams based in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. When AEG launched the Ontario Reign, the move was at least partially made with an eye towards moving the Kings' top minor-pro affiliate from Manchester once other western NHL franchises made similar moves. Calgary's moving their top affiliate to Abbotsford was done for similar reasons, though the Flames overestimated their ability to crack the hold that the Canucks have on the marketplace.

Truth be told, no matter how highly they speak of their current situations, the Ducks, Avalanche, Oilers, Kings, Coyotes, and Sharks will all jump at the chance to move their AHL affiliates west once they're convinced that the critical mass necessary to create a division has been reached. Of course, in some cases, they'll also have to convince current owners to sell their AHL operating licenses, or relocate. That said, the desire and willingness on the part of the NHL parent organizations already exists.

Vancouver is simply taking steps that the eight westernmost NHL franchises have been talking about for years.

So instead of this being the terrible idea of one team it's a terrible idea eight teams have kicked around. Cool.

The problem here is that the AHL is not equipped to be a continent-spanning league. Despite no longer being a northeast bus league teams are still set up to be a northeast bus league. A continent-spanning presence is both desirable because it indicates growth and undesirable because of the costs associated with running a league with a continent-spanning footprint.

There's barely enough interested people with actual money to make a 30 team NHL work. Not to mention a 30 team AHL once you raise travel costs across the board by adding a legitimate western North American conference/division/whatever. AHL hockey's biggest selling point is the low-cost nature of running a team compared to the NHL, and you severely damage that reality if you adopt a more NHL-like continental footprint.

Long story short if the AHL is looking to relocate teams out west then it's time to REALLY pull the trigger on dividing the circuit into three leagues that share a championship, similar to how junior hockey works in Canada. Divide the AHL into three self-contained leagues based on geography, one in the northeast, one in the midwest, and one in the west. That's the only way a legitimate western-centric relocation boom works. Otherwise things will get ugly from an economic standpoint.

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I didn't cross the street on a DON'T WALK sign and get hit by a car. I just took the steps I had been talking about.

The best thing that can happen to AAA hockey, as I've articulated before, is the AHL in cozy northeastern towns and the IHL in midwestern/southern cities with NBA-NHL-ish arenas (where teams can ostensibly bear the higher travel costs), but even that can't get you too far west. The concentration of population and hockey interest from Pennsylvania up through New England makes it practically impossible to have a balanced footprint. If the Kings and Sharks don't like it, tough.

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I didn't cross the street on a DON'T WALK sign and get hit by a car. I just took the steps I had been talking about.

The best thing that can happen to AAA hockey, as I've articulated before, is the AHL in cozy northeastern towns and the IHL in midwestern/southern cities with NBA-NHL-ish arenas (where teams can ostensibly bear the higher travel costs), but even that can't get you too far west. The concentration of population and hockey interest from Pennsylvania up through New England makes it practically impossible to have a balanced footprint. If the Kings and Sharks don't like it, tough.

Or they can use their ECHL teams for much of the short term "AHL-style" work, such as rehab.

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So we may be overstating the developmental side of things. The best players in the league really do tend to skip right through the AHL to the league (or have a very short stint) or do their developing closer to home in Europe.

That's just flat out wrong. You may have teams like St. Louis with only a few players developed in the system but what about teams like Detroit who keeps their guys in Grand Rapids until they're almost too ripe. Not even looking at goalies (who have to develop outside of the NHL just due to a numbers crunch), The Red Wings currently have 11 players who spent at least one season with Grand Rapids. And they've got plenty more knocking on the door waiting for their chance.

And that's just one team and their homegrowns. A large number of NHL players, even foreigners, spent some sort of time getting used to the pro game in the AHL.

And speaking as a homer, look at the players who have joined the Lightning this season and are playing amazingly. Conacher (reigning AHL RoY and MVP) made the team out of camp, Radko Gudas made his NHL debut after 2.5 seasons in the AHL and has been great, Alex Killorn played 54 games total in the AHL after the Lightning let him develop at Harvard for four years. He now has 14 points in 24 games and is now a permanent member of the team, Ondrej Palat (an underrated energy guy who Tampa picked up as a 20-year-old in the 7th round of the 2011 draft) is now a key member of the Lightning's bottom six, Tyler Johnson (an undrafted free agent) has over come the "handicap" of his short stature and had 6 points in 8 games.

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Any chance the Aeros can play in the Reliant Arena over by the Astrodome?

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