The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region

AHL shuffle could land team in Utica

As reported Sunday in The Province, the Vancouver Canucks are trying to swing a three-team deal that would result in their control of the AHL team in Peoria and move them to Abbotsford, British Columbia, about an hour's drive from Vancouver.

The Peoria Rivermen are currently affiliated with the St. Louis Blues, who would take control of the Canucks-operated AHL team in Chicago. The franchise currently playing in Abbotsford is affiliated with the Calgary Flames and would move to Utica.

This, of course, stinks for hockey fans in Peoria. The Rivermen are 19th in the AHL in attendance with an average of 5,101 fans per game.

The Abbotsford Heat are 28th at 3,699, but if it is Vancouver's players suiting up for the more local Abbotsford club, interest may grow.

The Province reports the city of Abbotsford has an agreement with the Heat in which the hockey franchise is "guaranteed $5.7 million in revenue per season and the city is responsible for any shortfall. Over the first three years of the deal, the city shelled out $3.58 million."

One can only believe a team filled with Vancouver prospects would be able to earn a little more than Calgary's team.

There's no word on what would make or break this deal, or what kind of contract Calgary's affiliate franchise would sign with the Utica Memorial Auditorium. But if Calgary is looking for guaranteed millions from Utica, N.Y., I doubt sincerely they would get that kind of deal.

Earlier this year, Don Laible of the Utica Observer-Dispatch first blogged about the possibility of an AHL team moving to Utica. In February, he blogged that team would be Calgary, and that the contract was going to be for 10 years. I still have my doubts about a 10-year AHL contract, but he seems to have been right about Calgary's interest.

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