Heat Leaving Abbotsford

UPDATE 3: Details.

Per the press release, the City of Abbotsford will pay the Flames $5.5 million to get out of the remaining 5 years of the deal – and it’s actually LESS than the city projected they would lose if they stayed. (They paid the Heat $5.2 million over the past 4 years, after all.) They thanked the Flames for working with them, noting they had no legal obligation to negotiate with the City to end the deal. (They could’ve sat there and taken the free money, in other words.)

Ken King had this to say, via the press release:

“In 2010 we came to Abbotsford with our AHL affiliate at the behest of the City Administration of the day,” said King. “Our aims were simple: to establish a home in the American Hockey League where we could develop our younger players in a strong community environment. The economics did not turn out the way any of us intended, despite the tremendous efforts of many men and women who made it their mission to convert the allegiances of local hockey fans, at least at the AHL level, to the Heat.”

King added: “Notwithstanding economics, our experiences here in the Fraser Valley have been

good. We made good friends here, have wonderful local partners and believe that our players have been served well in this market. Unfortunately, the time has come for us to move on.”

UPDATE 2: It’s official.

UPDATE: Presser starts imminently. But…

After five seasons of relative stability, the Calgary Flames’ primary AHL affiliate may be on the move again.

Amy Judd of Global News in the Vancouver area is reporting that the City of Abbotsford, which owns and operates the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, will be terminating its deal with the Calgary Flames and the Abbotsford Heat after five seasons.

The Abbotsford Heat came to the city for the 2009-10 season, after signing a 10-year contract guaranteeing the team $5.7 million every year.
In the first four years of the 10-year deal, the Heat cost Abbotsford taxpayers $5.24 million. Figures for this season have not yet been released.

It’s unclear if the termination of the deal would lead to a revised pact for the Heat, or the team relocating. Glen Falls, NY – the home of the Adirondack Phantoms (the Flyers affiliate) – will soon be without a tenant as the Phantoms move to Allentown, PA. Rumours have long had the Heat moving closer to the other AHL clubs on the East Coast (or even the Midwest), as the constant travel does cost the Heat practice days.

The Heat arrived in the Fraser Valley in 2009, after the Flames affiliate had bounced around Omaha and the Quad Cities. The club has enjoyed some on-ice success, but seriously cannot draw crowds. Like, at all, frequently being the worst AHL market for attendance. The Heat finished off their regular season home schedule on Sunday with a shootout loss to the Oklahoma City Barons.

A press conference regarding a new “strategic direction” for the AESC has been called for 11am MT (10am local), at which time hopefully some light is shed on the seemingly never-ending Abbotsford arena saga.

  • BigRo

    Why are they doing this right before the AHL playoffs start, do they want ZERO people to show up, because that’s how you get zero people to show up. Why is anyone going to go to games when they now that the team is moving as soon as playoffs are over.

    Best of luck to the Flames in finding an Affiliate that will last longer than a few years

  • BigRo

    I think in the big plan when Calgary gets a new Area the will move here. They will play at the Dome along with the Hitmen and Roughnecks ( all owned by the Flames). This will be part of the push by the Flames to the city that they will continue rent and use the Dome. Calgary needs a new centre for better entertainment events that can handle the required added speakers etc from the roof. In addition bringing the Heat here to Calgary which is already a captive market could sell more seats then the 3000 or so elsewhere. Because they own the Hitmen they have done a Marketing study knowing they would not lose sales because of the price level differences.

    • SmellOfVictory

      That would be a stupidly large number of teams to house in one stadium. Between the Heat, Hitmen, and Flames, when would they ever have openings to book musical acts in the fall through spring?

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        “when Calgary gets a new Arena” being the key phrase.

        Once that happens, I actually really like the idea. Flames fans would support that team. You would have the Heat, Hitmen & Roughnecks in the dome and put the Flames and all the musical acts in the new arena.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Looked online for the largest cities in Canada. Quebec City comes in at # 11 with a population of over 516,000 and a new NHL size arena. Could we use that rink till they get their NHL team? Would be in the East and good for travel too.

  • McRib

    Think the Heat go east for now due to the better travel and more practice time afforded by it.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I’m one of those people who think Calgary is hockey mad enough to support 3 teams and that bringing the Heat to Calgary eventually would be a great idea. I’d love to seeguys like Reinhart, Arnold, possibly Gaudreau, Ortio, Granlund, etc. play.

    That said, the biggest reservation I would have is them playing in the ‘Dome. Calgary really needs an arena in the 10,000 capacity range, give or take a couple of thousand.

    The ‘Dome is just too big, too hard to access and too expensive IMO. For the Hitmen games it lacks atmosphere as the seats always appear empty and half the concourse is closed.

    In addition, it needs to be easily accessible and have free parking and there’s the rub with the ‘Dome. The C-train sucks and paying $15/game just to park is highway robbery.

    If the Heat and Hitmen could share an 8,000-10,000 seat arena somewhere easily accessible (maybe off the ring road?) and provide ample free parking, I think theyd sell out for both teams. It could also serve triple duty as the Flame’ new practice rink.

    • SmellOfVictory

      We absolutely have the population for it here; it just shouldn’t be in the same arena as the other two hockey teams.

      Airdrie (or somewhere in the far north of Calgary) would make a ton of sense to me. It gives people out there a cheaper, closer option for hockey games to take their kids to, and it gives hardcore hockey fans in Calgary easy access to watch prospects play.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Airdrie needs a 5-10,000 seat rink capable of housing a team. Rather than putting in a WHL team IMO it would be better to bring in an AHL team that can build a strong identity with the city.

      Airdrie is a strong local hockey market, currently has 55,000 residents, growing to 80,000 in 12 years, able to draw from Calgary plus another 100,000 north/east/west of the city. Travel would be slightly better than Abby too.

      Could build an expandable barn with 4-5,000 seats now, expandable to 10-12,000.

      Know anyone with some spare change … about $40-60M or so..?

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Didn’t Roger Millions put out there last month that the Lethbridge Hurricanes were possibly on the move after being bought by some new owner? If the Arena is free would the Flames think of it?

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I’m from Lethbridge. Don’t even tease me like that. Would LOVE to have the Heat here. I don’t see it happening though. Lethbridge can’t seem to support a WHL team.

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        The Heat would be a bit of a bigger draw than the Hurricanes sadly, at least imo. If the cost of season tickets were the same as it was in Abby I’d look at getting pair. I loved going to heat games in Abbotsford, that was one heck of a nice arena.

      • BurningSensation

        I’m also in Lethbridge, and there isn’t a peep about the Heat moving here.

        Unfortunately, the Hurricanes haven’t been very good for a while, and its killing attendance.

    • Parallex

      Hmmmm… I wonder… okey so scuttlebutt was that the arrival of the Heat resulted in the relocation of the Chilliwack Bruins to Victoria.

      With the Heat now set to be gone and Abbotsford Arena now lacking an anchor tenent I wonder if the WHL is interested in going back to the lower mainland?

      … If Lethbridge were to move there it would even balance out the conference numbers.

  • Parallex

    I dunno, I imagine that Abbotsford figures they can get a better deal with Vancouver (and that the Canucks farm team would be a better draw) enough to offset whatever the penalty is for breaking the contract… they’re probably right.

    Not so fond of the farm moving to New York State. Sure, it’s lighter travel for the team but it’s so far from Calgary. Isn’t there some literally middle ground between the two? Or at least something in the same time zone?

    • gotommygo

      ‘I dunno, I imagine that Abbotsford figures they can get a better deal with Vancouver (and that the Canucks farm team would be a better draw) enough to offset whatever the penalty is for breaking the contract… they’re probably right.’

      I think this is it, exactly. If the Heat are moving out then Comets are likely moving in. If this is true then the Canucks and city of Abbotsford will have to compensate the Flames in a big way because the Flames had a pretty sweet deal.

      In light of that, it probably doesn’t matter where the Heat play next year, at least from an attendance standpoint, because they should be compensated for the 5 years they had left on that contract. Wherever they end up, the attendance is bound to rise regardless, unless they are in another Vancouver suburb (or maybe an Edmonton suburb).

  • RonR

    I still think the best place would be Saskatoon. They have a beautiful arena in the Credit Union Place, and Saskatchewan people would support this for sure I believe.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I know this is not realistic but I would love if the new arena is a hockey only facility. Build a monument to hockey like the new-retro baseball stadiums are like. The aesthetic would be retro but the insides (technology, practice/training facilities etc) would be ‘bleeding’ edge.

    Design it to amplify acoustics and just make it a nightmare for opposing teams to play in (so loud that opponents can’t hear each other on the bench complain about how thin the air is). Sink it deep into the ground and make it THE best hockey facility in the world. Have different levels for the other uses like MSG does.

    Ice that is never removed and always the best in hockey. Trick it out so that any advanced analytics could be employed (motion capture).

    I’ve been to the newer entertainment area/arena like Glendale and they suck. It feels like a mall food court.

    When I saw Vancouver’s new dressing room it looked like a day spa. Edmonton’s designs look too flashy for that city.

    I don’t want a barn design per se but make it a timeless design for the city and as a homage to hockey (something like the shanghai pavillion but different in shape – the wood, love that look).

    • McRib

      Considering the Flames are using the Architects-Populous to design the new rink. Who are also responsible for re-creating the mordern retro era ballparks starting with Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I think the Flames are not that far off from your wishes with a new rink. Populous also created AT&T Park, Coors Field, PNC Park, Target Field, New Yankee, Busch Stadium, etc. I have watched MLB games at AT&T, PNC, Target and the New Yankee and must say all of them are unbelievable facilities. You gotta think our Owners have been setting money aside for a new rink for years, whereas Daryl Katz inherited a bad situation and was forced to squeeze funds out of the city. I have watched a few Winterhawks games in Portland at the Rose Garden and must say that is a hell of a facility. The stands have a very vertical pitch so you aren’t looking at the back of someones head and the Acoustics are amazing they have all these dampners behind the last row of seats to reflect the sound back down.

      Not the biggest fan of the Oilers New Arena renderings it will be interesting to see how their Arena turns out as design concepts don’t tell all of the story, but it doesn’t look like a design that will stand the test of time far too modern. Glad they put it downtown should help with the ghost town problems they have in the core after work. I’m excited for a offical release I heard it was supposed to be last summer, but was delayed due to the floods.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Well, if you had the Heat, Hitmen and then Flames practicising there, that would pretty much cover it. For the Roughnecks, you could leave the ice in and just lay down a surface over top of the ice.

    • McRib

      I don’t know it doesn’t seem to be too hard to get out of an AHL arena contract, Hahah. Especially considering Utica is an old building. The Canucks farm team should have always been in Abbotsford. I actually hope the Flames farm goes back out east for the time being as the travel has been brutal with the majority of the AHL teams on the east coast. You gotta wonder why we have had so many injuries with guys primarily playing at the AHL level this season (Ferland, Granlund, etc). Three games in four days is bad enough not to mention being on a bus 12+ hours in between those games.

  • Craig

    I’m on the saskatoon train, just moved there a couple of months ago, good amount of flames fans and the city is really hungry for something better than the blades. In my opinion it would be the perfect fit.

  • Truculence

    There’s gotta be more to this story than what ‘s being reported here. My question is how much did Aqualini pay Flames’ owners to get outta their backyard so they can make room for the Canucks’ AHL affiliate.

    Reports in the local papers here have intermittently talked about Aqualini’s desire to put the Comets in Abby over the past year.

    Me thinks some back-room wheeling and dealing made this one possible, as billionaire owners usually don’t cut deals from the kindness of their hearts. The Flames were pretty much getting a free meal in Abby, so the economics were working from their standpoint.

    Good news for Abby residents, though. Don’t like to see Canadian taxpayers anywhere getting milked for deals moronic politicians cut.

  • gotommygo

    Saskatoons arena 15000+, would have an AHL team there kill the Blades?

    Lethbridge 7000, sounds like the Canes are a troubled franchise.

    King says 4000 needed to break even?

    One of the cities around Calgary? Who would build a 5000-10000 arena? if the tax payers in Abbotsford weren’t happy losing $1.5 million a year I don’t see the tax payers of Airdrie, Cochrane, Strathmore being willing to pony up either? Some mentioned Fort Mac, do they have an arena 5000+?

    Looks like out east or down south.