The good people of Utica, New York, haven’t had an American Hockey League team to support since they were cheering on the Devils, starring a young Jim Dowd, in 1993.
But it appears the AHL will be returning to the Utica Memorial Auditorium next season in the form of the Vancouver Canucks’ minor-league affiliate.
Per News 1130 Sports in Vancouver, the league will vote in favor of the move on June 13.
The Canucks have been looking for somewhere to put their AHL affiliate since purchasing the Peoria Rivermen franchise from the Blues.
“Utica definitely has hockey in its blood,” the city’s mayor Robert Palmieri told the Vancouver Sun recently. “Utica is a hockey town and it’s been that way for years and years and years. I think, quite frankly, bringing in another AHL team makes a tremendous amount of sense. I think Vancouver and Utica would be just a perfect marriage for great hockey in this area.
“I’m very optimistic. We are a city on the rise and I think there is a lot of interest in hockey. Behind the scenes, we’ve been working diligently for multiple months and I’m very encouraged. I think it would be outstanding for civic pride for Utica to have another AHL team.”
Utica had previously attempted to attract the Abbotsford Heat, Calgary’s AHL team.
At the same time, the Canucks had explored placing the Rivermen in Abbotsford, a suburb of Vancouver. However, no deal was ultimately struck.
While Vancouver and Utica are across the continent from each other, the Canucks’ prospects stand to enjoy a relatively easy AHL travel schedule in upstate New York compared to the one the Heat face.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Bill Foley is “9.5” confident that the NHL will grant him an expansion team for Las Vegas.
That was the main takeaway from an interview Foley did with KSNV NBC in Las Vegas.
At the same time, despite his high level of confidence, Foley would appreciate an answer sooner rather than later — especially if the team is to start playing in 2017-18.
” I don’t want to give the league too much time,” he said, smiling. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing their process and so on. We would really like to have the word by June.”
Foley was asked what he believed to be the biggest “concern” the NHL had about expansion. He replied that it was a matter of whether the league expanded by one team or two (Quebec City has also applied for a franchise), but also the expansion draft.
“Who’s available in the draft? Are players with no-trade clauses…are they going to be part of the draft or not part of the draft?” Foley wondered. “So the owners and the league have a lot of things to do and to figure out.”
Full video of the interview can be found here.
Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle
The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.
Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.
The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).
“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”
Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.
Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.
Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.
The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.
The first day of the playoffs is April 13.
Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made
Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.
This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.
“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”
Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.
Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.
Vigneault felt the hit was late.
“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.
Beleskey was not suspended.