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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

‘People couldn’t wear red jerseys into the rink’: Mike Kostka on the challenges of the Stockton Heat

The Stockton Heat are moving north to Calgary for the 2022-23 season. While players and staff in Stockton have been very complimentary about the devoted fans in Stockton, the market was not without its challenges.

Speaking on a recent edition of The Broadway Hat podcast, former Heat blueliner Mike Kostka discussed some of the challenges.

Kostka was acquired by the Calgary Flames at the 2017 trade deadline and assigned to Stockton while recovering from an eye injury. He shared an anecdote about going to Starbucks near Stockton Arena before a game in his suit and getting lectured by team staff for doing so because of how potentially dangerous the nearby area was.

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On the podcast, Kostka was asked if he was surprised that the team was relocating to Calgary:

That place was wild. As far as, am I surprised they moved the team? No. People couldn’t wear red jerseys into the rink because of the Bloods and the Crips and the gang activity. I was cleaning out my Google Drive the other day and I found a map of gang activity of Stockton that they gave me when I got to the team. Isn’t that nuts?

The AHL originally had home teams always wear white, but starting in 2016-17 the rule changed and they had teams switch after Christmas to wearing their dark sweaters, a situation that had the Heat wearing red for half of the time at home. The team did utilize a series of snazzy alternate home sweaters during their time in Stockton, though, including a really sharp black alternate introduced in 2016-17 and a grey alternate commemorating the history of pro hockey in the city during the 2019-20 season.

Kostka’s comments echo those made early in the 2015-16 season by Czech defender Jakub Nakladal. Upon his recall to Calgary from the Heat, he shared these comments with Postmedia’s Kristen Anderson:

“It’s a crazy city, a little bit,” said Nakladal, who had three assists in two games with the Heat. “A little bit (dangerous). The weather was great there. I feel like it was a vacation for me. (The AHL) is a good league, a little different than the NHL. Everything is faster, the players are smarter. But I think it’s a good league, maybe better than Europe.”

The Heat will be playing in Calgary starting with the 2022-23 season. The AHL has yet to announce the 2022-23 divisional alignment, and the Flames have yet to reveal which arena the Heat will be playing in. But those mysteries should probably be revealed in the next few weeks as various leagues roll out their schedules for the upcoming season.

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