Making Sense of the AHL West Reports

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According to several reports, there’s a whole lotta movement going on in the American Hockey League, as the much-rumoured “West Division” moves from a mere notion towards becoming reality.

The AHL’s Board of Governors are slated to meet at the end of the month for their regular meeting, coinciding with the league’s All-Star festivities. At that point, we may get some details made official. For now, here’s the gist of what we think we know about what’s happening next season.

Prior to Christmas, Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun reported the following:

The Los Angeles Kings (Manchester, N.H) already own the ECHL Ontario
Reign. Ther Calgary Flames (Adirondack, N.Y.) are expected to announce
the purchase of Stockton Thunder, currently owned by Brad Rowbotham of
Red Deer. Anaheim (Norfolk, Virginia) is looking at either San Diego or
Long Beach. That would leave only San Jose (Worchester, Mass.) in search
of a spot.

Yesterday, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported the following:

Norfolk is 1 of 5 cities expected to lose AHL teams to the move west,
joining Manchester, N.H.; Worcester, Mass.; Glens Falls, N.Y.; and
Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City officials confirmed Wednesday that their
franchise will cease operations after this season, and the Bakersfield
Californian newspaper reported that the Oklahoma City team will relocate
there.

Given what has been reported and confirmed elsewhere, here’s the gist of what we think we know as of today:

  • The Flames will relocate their AHL affiliate from Glens Falls, New York to Stockton, California (where the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL currently play).
  • The L.A. Kings will effectively swap their AHL and ECHL affiliates; Ontario, California will host their AHL club (rather than their current ECHL team) and Manchester, New Hampshire will get the ECHL club (rather than their current AHL team).
  • The Ducks will relocate their affiliate from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California, which currently has no hockey team.
  • The Oilers will relocate their affiliate from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Bakersfield, California, which presently has the ECHL’s Condors.
  • The Sharks will relocate their affiliate from Worcester, Massachusetts to somewhere in California, presumably Long Beach, which currently has no hockey team.

Be forewarned, though, the only part of my list of presumptions and guesses that has been officially confirmed or announced is that the Edmonton Oilers will not be continuing their affiliation with the Oklahoma City Barons (and that is triggering the dissolution of that franchise at the end of this season).

I think it’s safe to say that developments in this realm are far from over, as a lot of dominoes need to officially fall for this to come to fruition, rather than the present – where dominoes are either presumed to be falling, rumoured to be falling or expected to be falling in the near future based on reports.

The expected January 25 AHL Board of Governors meeting will likely be the next time we hear actual official news on this topic, presuming there’s nothing new broken in the interim.

  • Parallex

    Are the Flames moving their ECHL franchise to Adirondack? I don’t have a problem with having our farm team in California but Glens Falls seems like a good community so it’d be nice if they (the Flames) could do something to at least keep some level of professional hockey there… if they’d (Glens Falls) want a AA club that is.

  • prendrefeu

    Californian here.

    This seems pretty sad on many levels:
    Adirondack is a nice community & town. I’ve been there, good people, good town.

    Stockton… sorry, but Stockton is a complete and total, absolute, unquestionably thorough sh*thole. The community just isn’t there to support hockey, the town is a wasteland. It’s considered (and I believe referenced as) one of the most miserable cities in the United States. Seriously, it’s a total dump in every conceivable way (yes, even air quality over there has been proven to cause serious health issues… think about athletes training now). I would label it as “one endless strip mall selling hopelessness and despair” but that quality is claimed by Fresno which is, remarkably, a step above Stockton. Seriously, Fresno is better than Stockton. This is like saying an overflowing septic tank in your back yard is better than a used, full, porta-potty that has been turned over on your doorstep. When driving through nearly everyone will speed up to get away from it as fast as possible (like most cities in the ‘central’ valley of this state).

    The Flames org will basically be killing a good community & team combination just to move west, and I fear that the development of their prospects will also suffer.

    Say it ain’t so, Flames. Please, please, please don’t do this. The results will be much worse than one might think.

    Alternative suggestions:
    RENO, NEVADA – it’s at a high altitude, good for training (also better for tax purposes), great town, very sports-oriented community that will really support the team. Also, knowing people who live there, you’ll also get more genuine Flames fans.
    SACRAMENTO, CA – Still central valley by location, but it’s actually a decent city in the end, and there is a strong community interested in supporting professional sports with total passion. Crime is mostly political! ha!

    Ryan, anyone… please tell the org to consider some alternatives. Stop a train-wreck from happening before it’s too late.

    • Another resident of California (though I grew up in Calgary) unfortunately seconds this opinion.

      I have nothing against the people of Stockton — they’re the pitiable folk who haven’t left. Yet.

      When I say “California”, the average Calgarian will think of beaches, palm trees, and glitz. Well, I live in a part of California that’s nothing like that. And Stockton is one step below.

      If the relative paradise of Abbotsford couldn’t support a Flames AHL affiliate, what in the name of all that’s holy would make anyone possibly think Stockton can..?

    • Good post.

      Obviously driver behind the California idea is the improved logistics and reduced costs. Getting players efficiently out of Addy and to and from the Flames is a nightmare given it’s location. I’m all in for restructuring the AHL that will enable efficiency and reduced costs. It just makes sense.

      As far as the Stockton being a sh_thole…does it really matter? These guys are focused on hockey and getting there asses out of the AHL into the NHL.

    • Truculence

      Were you dumped by chicks from Fresno and/or Stockton? Or did you get beat-up in one of these cities? Cuz that`s some hate-on you got for those two places.

      • prendrefeu

        Were you dumped by chicks from Fresno and/or Stockton? Or did you get beat-up in one of these cities? Cuz that`s some hate-on you got for those two places.

        Nope, neither. I just know this state and most of its cities (and areas) too well. I do a lot of traveling throughout in my off time: camping, hiking, desert parties, forest parties, and of course cycling (I race)… so going through these places you start to know them. Inevitably you stop – quick store run, petrol, whatever – and drive around the town (or ride around it). Then you meet people from that town either while they’re there or if they’ve left.

        And, honestly: I’ve never met an attractive woman from the Central Valley of CA. I’m sure someone else might find them attractive, everyone is attractive to someone.

        @Jeff In Lethbridge

        if stockton is the worst, where does that leave places like Ridgecrest or Victorville?

        They’re above Fresno, but still pretty bad. With Victorville you can add “Desperia” (real name: Hesperia) into the mix. While those two cities are essentially a endless blanket of tract housing developments, streets-treated-as-highways and bad food, there is an active economy there and there are efforts, however scant, to improve it. Those two cities, along with Palmdale and Lancaster, were once simply sparse houses of people who want space/distance from other human contact, but are now vast areas of houses for people who take a multi-hour commute into the next major city for work. They are places that offer(ed) affordable homes to people who wanted to fulfill that ambition (home ownership). Totally different from Central Valley cities.

        Ridgecrest is an interesting mix of military personnel (aerospace, missile tech, space tech), outdoorsmen, and farmers. It is a dull city, but not terrible by any means, and calm. It does not have the pollution issues of the Central Valley cities.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    A sellout crowd at Addy is 4,794 …what does Stockton arena hold?

    From Wickipedia:

    “Stockton led the ECHL in attendance for four straight years, becoming the first team in the ECHL to accomplish the box office feat since the Florida Everblades’ five-year run from 2000-05. Stockton has drawn over an average of 6,000 fans per game or more every season, and has 14 recorded sellouts at their 9,737-seat home ice venue since 2005.”

    I guess we will wait and see….thanks for illuminating this topic Ryan.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      I just found that as well. Sounds like there could be games with double Adirondack’s attendance. The article also stated “one of the most passionate, loyal fanbases”.

      I appreciate prendrefeu’s comments, but it seems this could actually be a very good hockey market?

      Did the City going bankrupt cause a dip in attendance? Anyone else have some insight on this?

      • gotommygo

        Regardless of how bad the area is there is a very large fan base. The fan base is not only from Stockton but the surrounding cities 1-2 hours away as well. The organization is extremely well run and their customer service is amazing. Calgary is getting an incredible deal, given they keep current employees and management. Access in and out is never a problem making everything low stress. I no longer attend Sharks games because the overall experience in Stockton is much more enjoyable for the family.

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    San Diego is Duck(and L.A.)territory so that could foster more fan base. Many people I talk to really want an AHL or better team. Hockey has roots in the desert.

  • SoCalFlamesFan

    I always wondered why the ECHL — the EAST COAST Hockey League — had far more Western teams than the AHL…………. but I can’t say I like the idea of the Flames’ affiliate moving YET AGAIN. They seem to have a good thing going with the folks in Glens Falls…

  • SydScout

    Boston based poster (for the time being).

    Have been to Adirondack three times to catch the baby Flames and each time the city of Glens Falls has been extraordinarily positive towards their team and the Calgary Flames. They are worried about losing this team, and work hard to promote both Flames teams.

    Surely the extra factors of being a hockey area, living near Saratoga, Lake George and Ontario, where a number of guys have family, must be the 1%’ers that push these players to be better. They are surrounded by positive sentiment.

    I implore anyone with the means to visit Glens Falls before the season is out. I’ve been on my own each time and never failed to end up at a bar drinking the local craft beers until 2am or later shooting the breeze with random folks. Wearing the Flaming C really helps open the conversation. They don’t want to lose this team.

    Honestly, would folks here prefer one longish journey (say an extra three hours over Stinktown) per call up but short bus rides between away game locations, over a shitty area to live for our prospects, and traveling all over the West Coast?

    Ryan, let the Flames brass know whats what. Please.

  • Subversive

    @prendrefeu – Awesome post, hilarious and also worrying.

    What I don’t understand is why the Flames don’t just put the team in Calgary. There’s clearly enough hockey appetite in the city to support it, and given the decreased costs associated by having everything in one place, they’d hardly need any support at all to make it viable. I guess scheduling could be an issue, but then again given the lack of concerts in the Saddledome, maybe it would actually work well.

      • prendrefeu

        Don’t bet on it. This maybe the future plan of moving teams in the AHL west. Edmonton was considering this a few years ago when Toronto put the Marlies there. I think with the new area being proposed by the Flames they could continue to use the Saddledome for smaller events like 8 to 10 thousand attendance. ( Hitmen, Roughnecks and baby flames ) the new barn would be used for the Flames and big concerts.

        The Hitmen would lose some attendance but it would go to the Baby Flames at a slightly better price. Flames Inc. I am sure would be doing this type of marketing math. Remember a WHL attendance is good at 4 to 5 thousand and the other 4 to 5 thousand would move to the AHL team. This is a good as most Flame farm teams have been getting over the last several years with potential to grow.

        PS: With no travel for the call ups and if other NHL Western teams do similar the road game travel is not all that bad.

        • gotommygo

          Edmonton was considering this a few years ago when Toronto put the Marlies there.

          Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I don’t believe Edmonton had a WHL team at that time.

  • gotommygo

    There are two ideas behind this:

    1. Having a Western Conference with five or six teams grouped together will save on travel for the AHL clubs when they make West Coast road trips. It also saves money for the West Coast clubs as they travel around between affiliates.

    2. Phoenix is expected to eventually relocate their AHL franchise to Las Vegas or another close market. In their case, it takes two days for a prospect to from Maine to Las Vegas due to flights and the time zone difference and forget about sending out a strength and conditioning coach to work with someone.

    The idea is that if the prospects are close to home or a simple flight away (LA to anywhere is no problem) a team can send a strength and conditioning coach, skating coach, etc and have them back to the big club without a problem.

    As an example, the FLyers can tell a coach to drive a couple of hours to work with a prospect in Allentown and be back home with his family that night.

    For Calgary and Edmonton I would think that the coaches would be chomping at the bit to work with prospects in Southern California in the middle of winter.

    It is a step in a long-term process to create a real minor league system in the NHL similar to what you have in baseball with the AAA and AA systems.

    In this case the AHL becomes a real AAA system and the ECHL becomes a AA system.

    Clustering AHL teams in Southern California will save a bunch of money and help create a better prospect development system for the NHL.

  • gotommygo

    Well, selfishly I’d much prefer the Flames AHL team in San Diego or somewhere else SoCal. Having them in Stockton wouldn’t be much different than Glen Falls (California is a big state!). Would be great to be able to see the future stars (!) on a regular basis. I guess, even as a road team, I’d heartily approve of a move out west.

    And prendrefeu was pretty accurate with his Travel Guide to Central California.

  • gotommygo

    Come watch a game in Stockton before you talk crap… Yes, the town is scarey but there are many great hockey fans that support their team to the fullest.