The Vancouver Canucks are moving their AHL team from Utica to Abbotsford, beginning next season.
Details of a partnership between the Canucks and the City of Abbotsford are being finalized, the team said, and relocation will be subject to AHL Board of Governors approval on May 6 — but that’s essentially a rubber stamp.
“With momentum starting to build, we are pleased to confirm our goal to bring our AHL franchise and Canucks prospects home to the City of Abbotsford,” said Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini in a media release. “The move would bring significant opportunities for both our team and the community and it would begin a new chapter, bringing Canucks hockey to even more fans throughout the Lower Mainland.”
The team would play out of the Abbotsford Centre, which can hold 8,500 fans for hockey, and was home to the failed Abbotsford Heat franchise from 2009 to 2014.
Two issues that plagued the Heat won’t be a problem for a new franchise. First, the team would be affiliated with the Canucks instead of the rival Calgary Flames. Second, there are many more AHL teams located on the west coast than before.
The plan is for the team to play in the AHL’s Pacific Division, which includes six teams in California.
A new name, brand, and logo will be unveiled for the franchise, the Canucks revealed.
The Canucks have been affiliated with the Utica Comets since 2013. Utica is expected to become the new AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils, given that Comets president Robert Esche registered “Utica Devils” as a trademark.
A statement from Comets President Robert Esche in response to the Vancouver Canucks’ recent announcement: pic.twitter.com/9lnBj9UA6b
— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) May 5, 2021
“We are extremely grateful for the outstanding partnership and working relationship we’ve had with Robert Esche and the entire Utica Comets family,” said Aquilini. “Since 2013, we have worked closely to create a first-class hockey environment for our players and Utica’s great fans. Utica has one of the best, most energetic hockey environments in North America. We wish Robert, his staff and the incredible Comets fans nothing but success in the future.”
While Utica was well situated to limit travel for the Comets, no other NHL team had their AHL affiliate located further away from home than did the Canucks. The move follows a growing trend across the NHL to have its AHL affiliates located nearby.
Canucks management will be able to view their prospects more easily, as will fans, for that matter. Calling up players can also be done with more ease, as it will require just a quick drive on Highway 1 instead of a cross-continent flight.