Canucks announce new affiliate; Comets to begin play in ’13-14
Friday morning the Vancouver Canucks announced that Utica, New York will be the home of their new American Hockey League franchise as per the team’s website. Unanimously approved by the AHL’s Board of Governors, the team will take over operations from the Peoria Riverman, the former St. Louis Blues affiliate that the Canucks purchased back in April.
Named the Comets, after a former hockey team that played in Clinton (15 miles from Utica) for 46 years back in the 1920’s, the team will sport the Canucks colors of blue, green, silver, and white, and will be very close to Laurence Gilman, the Canucks VP of hockey operations & assistant GM.
Though Utica is nowhere near Vancouver, British Columbia, Gilman believes that the location is perfect.
“Utica is located in the heart of the American Hockey League, it’s within a couple hours driving distance to half a dozen teams. From a developmental model, it’s a great location to place an American Hockey League team because your team will be playing games and sleeping at home more nights, which translates to more days practicing. That’s truly a win-win for everyone.”
According to The Province, the Canucks were in talks with the city of Abbotsford to relocate the aforementioned Riverman to the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Center. The only problem with that is there’s already a team there. The Heat, the affiliate of the rival Calgary Flames play their home games at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Center and were rumored to be moving to Utica had talks between the City and the Canucks been successful. The fans of the Heat have been almost non-existent at the arena, that is unless the rival Canucks are in town (in the AHL’s the Chicago Wolves).
The Comets will play their home games at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Robert Esche will be the team’s general manager. This will be the first AHL team in the city since the New Jersey Devils’ affiliate (also named the Devils ) called Utica home from 1987-1993. The Comets become the sixth team in the Empire State along with the Syracuse Crunch, Adirondack Phantoms (who are moving back to Pennsylvania in 2014), Albany Devils, Rochester Americans, and the Binghamton Senators.