The Calgary Flames may be moving their AHL affiliate once again.
Don Laible of the Utica Observer-Dispatch reports the Abbotsford Heat will be moving to Utica, NY next season and signing a 10-year affiliation deal with the city. Utica hasn’t been the home to an AHL team since 1993 when the New Jersey Devils moved their farm team to Albany and became the wonderfully named (and defunct) River Rats.
The Flames’ history in picking locations to have their minor league team succeed have been dubious to say the least.
Their current location in Abbotsford, B.C. has been a money-losing venture and the team has also failed in Omaha, Nebraska and the Quad Cities in Illinois over the last eight years. Making matters worse, the Heat have the fifth-lowest attendance in the AHL this season.
Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald shares a statement from the Flames on the matter, via Twitter.
“We have been approached by representatives in Utica concerning an opportunity for the AHL. We understand they are building a case for the AHL to return there. We are under contract and committed to Abbotsford, and have made no alternate commitments.”
Barry Brust hasn’t played in an NHL game since 2007 with the L.A. Kings, but his recent run of hot play in the AHL has him thinking big for when the lockout ends.
Ben Kuzma of The Province spoke with the 29 year-old Abbotsford Heat netminder and new AHL shutout streak record holder to find out he’s itching for the chance to get back in the NHL.
“The way I’ve grown and the success I’ve had at AHL level, I’m ready to make the next step,” said Brust. “It’s going to take a few steps and a few bounces but I’m prepared for it.”
The issue Brust will run into being in the Calgary Flames’ system is the other two goalies he’s sharing time with in Abbotsford. Former first-round pick Leland Irving as well as upstart Danny Taylor.
Backing up Miikka Kiprusoff in Calgary is a tough job because it means a lot of time waiting for a chance to play, but Brust feels he’s ready for that second chance at NHL glory.
According to Greg Douglas of the Vancouver Sun, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is looking to buy the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre and work out a deal to bring the Canucks farm team closer to home.
The one catch here is that the Calgary Flames affiliate currently calls Abbotsford home but the association hasn’t been peachy as Douglas writes.
Calgary’s American Hockey League affiliate – the Abbotsford Heat – are locked into a 10-year supply fee agreement with the City of Abbotsford and after three years, it’s been a disaster. The Heat played four post-season games this season in their home building that can accommodate 7,046 fans for hockey and drew an average of 2,389.
According to the AHL website, the only team that had a lower average attendance last season were the Albany Devils. That’s… Not good.
If the Canucks were able to move their AHL operations to Abbotsford, the farm team would be only about 45 miles away. That makes for a vastly better set-up for call-up/send-down purposes.
A hockey board meeting is set for September 7 in Abbotsford involving members of the Flames organization.