An AHL West Update

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The hockey world will likely be abuzz tomorrow regarding the formal announcement of the retirement of the legendary Martin Brodeur, but another impactful announcement may be occurring on another front.

San Jose Mercury News reporter Mark Purdy, discussing the planned move of the Sharks affiliate (more on that in a second), had a tidbit regarding timelines for the formal announcement of the much-rumoured AHL Pacific Division.

If all goes as planned, the AHL’s entire western strategy will then be officially announced at a Jan. 29 news conference inside SAP Center.

The announcement was likely pending a few things being approved at both the ECHL and American Hockey League’s board of governors meetings over the weekend. (Mayor’s Manor’s John Hoven recently revisited this topic and re-confirmed that the announcement would be Thursday in San Jose.)

Here’s how things stand heading into tomorrow, team by team.

LOS ANGELES

The Kings have arguably the easiest move(s) to make. They have an AHL farm team on the East Coast (the Manchester Monarchs). They have an ECHL farm team on the West Coast (the Ontario Reign). Both are owned by the Kings parent company, AEG.

They want them to be flipped, in terms of switching leagues. That is, fundamentally, what is happening. Both teams are expected to keep their existing names. Per Mayor’s Manor’s John Hoven, the Monarchs are expected to have a press conference on Friday detailing all the specifics. They’re the only AHL club that, as of now, has officially scheduled any media discussions about the moves.

ANAHEIM

The Ducks presently have an AHL club in Norfolk, Virginia, the Norfolk Admirals. They’re reportedly being sold to the Ducks, who are moving them to San Diego, where they are expected to play in the Valley View Casino Center (formerly the old San Diego Sports Arena).

The Ducks presently have an ECHL affiliation with the Utah Grizzlies that presumably wouldn’t be impacted by this.

CALGARY

They already own the Adirondack Flames of the AHL. They’re reportedly purchasing the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. They’ll own both. Some have speculated that Adirondack could move to the ECHL, iIn a Kings-esque swap. It would make sense.

The Flames presently have an ECHL affiliation with the Colorado Eagles, but presumably that won’t continue next season what with them owning an ECHL team (at least for now).

EDMONTON

The Oilers own the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL and the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL. Bakersfield is set to move to the AHL. The Barons will cease operations and reportedly be moved to Bakersfield, while the Condors ECHL franchise will reportedly move to Norfolk to fill their building’s vacancy.

SAN JOSE

The AHL’s Worcester Sharks are already owned by the Sharks. They’re reportedly being moved to the SAP Center, which they’ll share with the big club. Whether that’s a temporary or permanent solution probably depends on how well the team does at the gate and the availability of other buildings in the Bay Area (or surroundings).

The Sharks have an ECHL affiliation with the Allen Americans (in Allen, Texas), which doesn’t seem like it’d be impacted by any of this.

SO GIMME THE GIST OF IT

According to all of the reports going on, here’s what’s more or less confirmed or suspected greatly:

  • The AHL’s Pacific Division will consist of five teams: San Diego (Ducks), Stockton (Flames), Ontario (Kings), San Jose (Sharks) and Bakersfield (Oilers). I’d expect Stockton, Ontario and Bakersfield to retain their original team names.
  • The ECHL will likely gain teams in Norfolk (Oilers), Manchester (Kings) and possibly Glens Falls (Flames) to replace the departing teams from Bakersfield, Stockton and Ontario. Some of all may retain their previous names, as well.
  • There will be a lot of divisional movement and realignment in both leagues.

I’m very curious to hear about the exact specifics for both leagues. Does the AHL maintain the same season length? Does it trim things down? How do the divisions change? Will there be any curve-balls for either league?

As always, big stick-tap to the various folks who’ve been chasing this story the last while, notably John Hoven at Mayor’s Manor.

  • RonR

    I understand the whole saving money in the long-run spiel, but really I have two concerns as a Flames fan..

    1) Is moving an entire ice hockey league to CALIFORNIA, really what’s best for the game?

    2) How does this affect the Adirondack Flames, and Glens Falls?

    • Colin.S

      2) Stockton ECHL will move to Addy as the Adirondack Thunder.

      1) It is NOT the entire AHL; just a portion. There are 30 teams in total in the AHL. This will be the Pacific Division of the AHL. It is in the best interests of the Flames and other NHL Pac Division teams for the movement of players between leagues.

    • SmellOfVictory

      1) It will potentially be much better for callups than Adirondack. Although Adirondack was a good place in terms of facility and crowds, callups took a minimum of 5-6 hours to get to any NHL destination (roughly 4 hr trip to the nearest airport plus a flight to whichever city they needed to join). For Ortio’s callup, he traveled for something like 12 hours in order to get where he needed to be due to scheduling conflicts. Also, being so close to the rest of the new AHL division will allow for less travel time and more practice time.

      2) Glens Falls will likely switch to the Flames’ ECHL affiliate. Sucks for them, but that’s the life of a town with a minor pro team.

  • Colin.S

    The AHL has never had an aligned strategic plan with it’s NHL affiliates. This makes sense from an economic and logistical point of view….long over due!

    NHL teams should be able to assign/call up players efficiently and there are numerous examples recently with the Flames where Abottsford (despite a first class building) and Adirondack did not make sense because of geographic and/or travel issues….

  • RonR

    Looks like the purchase of the Stockton Thunder is a done deal – if you go to their website, Treliving is part of the media availability tomorrow at 4:30 in Stockton.

    I assume the Islanders affiliation will continue for the remainder of this year, and then it looks like this will indeed become the top farm team of the Flames.

    I was never a fan of the Glendale move – it does not suit western teams from a travel viewpoint. Also, I think the Stockton arena is much nicer than the one in Glendale.

    Having said all that, I still believe that Saskatoon would be the best place the Flames farm team could possibly be.