April 04 2013 11:29AM
It has been rumoured for months that the Canucks would attempt to supplant the Abbotsford Heat with their own AHL affiliate in the Fraser Valley. That chatter has picked up steam recently as the Team 1040's Tom Mayenknecht reported that the Canucks would purchase the Peoria Rivermen (which did happen earlier this week) with an eye on moving them to some local destination (preferably Abbotsford).
The stumbling block has long been the presence of the Calgary Flames, who are in the third year of a ten year lease agreement with the city of Abbotsford. From the sounds of it - though, of course we should take such statements with a dumptruck load of salt - the Flames don't exactly sound eager to facilitate the deal.
Read on past the jump.
Here's a statement from the Flames, via the Calgary Herald, on the recent speculation about moving their AHL affiliate to Utica, or a "three team trade" involving themselves, the Blues and the Canucks:
“On behalf of our fans and on behalf of our local partners in the Abbotsford Heat, we wish to emphasize that there is no ‘three-way deal’ (or any other deal) that will see the Canucks move their development program to Abbotsford for next season,” the Flames said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “We remain committed to our fans and partners in Abbotsford and look forward to sharing many more seasons with them.”
That sounds definitive but if we decide to split hairs it doesn't actually tell us much. First of all, what else are the Flames going to say? Secondly, they specifically refute the "three-way deal" notion which is obviously off the table with the Canucks having already purchased the Rivermen (and probably never even existed outside of Ed Willes' head).
My point here is just that the Flames' recent public denial shouldn't be read as iron clad. Also Calgary's almost certainly does nothing to change Vancouver's plans. In a piece in which he got original quotes from Mike Gillis, Iain Macintyre wrote the following earlier this week: "The Canucks will relocate the American Hockey League team from Illinois to an as-yet determined city nearer Vancouver."
Macintyre's declaration echoes Tom Mayenknecht's most recent reporting on these issues too (at this point, Mayenknecth has been by far the most reliable source of Canucks/AHL-affiliate information):
On AHL carousel: Part 1 done; Part 2 Wolves-STL; For Part 3 @nhlflames need new sweetheart deal (Utica) to exit sweetheart deal in Abby...— Tom Mayenknecht (@TheSportMarket) April 1, 2013
Additional leverage for @vancanucks is their option to move new AHL team into lower bowl at Rogers Arena for 2013-'14. Abby is Plan A.— Tom Mayenknecht (@TheSportMarket) April 1, 2013
In summary, it still sounds an awful lot like a Canucks owned and operated AHL-affiliate will be playing somewhere locally regardless of whether or not the Flames vacate Abbotsford. Hopefully the Flames will vacate, however, because if that's how this goes down, the big loser will unquestionably be Abbotsford taxpayers...