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.