Welcome the AHL’s Utica Comets, so named because you can only see them for a short time

Photo via Jessi Pierce of the Oneida Daily Dispatch.

Considering how many sagas the Vancouver Canucks have been juggling in recent days, it’s entirely possible that you might have lost track of one or two, so let’s get you caught up on the AHL affiliate saga, which came to a merciful end this week with the introduction of the Utica Comets.

Ever since their sweet deal with the Manitoba Moose was killed by the return of the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, the Canucks have  been working to find an AHL partnership as cushy as that one. The two-year pact with the Chicago Wolves, which expired at the end of this season, wasn’t it. While the Moose were a somewhat accommodating franchise, willing to give big minutes to the Canucks’ developing prospects, the Wolves were as independent as Destiny’s Child. (The star on our team? We bought it. The stud on our D? We bought it.)

It created obstacles, and at some point in the relationship, the Canucks began working on a plan to procure their own AHL team, which would be closer to home, both in terms of their interests and their proximity. They set their sights on Abbotsford.

The plan only half-worked. After purchasing the Peoria Rivermen from the St. Louis Blues, the Canucks couldn’t work out a deal with the Flames to move the Abbotsford Heat elsewhere. Thus, for the past month or so, the Canucks has been looking for a city to park their new affiliate.

They landed on Utica, New York, birthplace of Springfield school district Superintendent Gary Chalmers. On Friday, Laurence Gilman, Lorne Henning, and Tom Sestito (for some reason) were in upstate New York to formally announce the advent of their new affiliate, the Comets.

Why not the Utica Canucks? It sounds like a stutter, for one thing, although as some on Twitter pointed out, the Utica Nucks would have been sort of clever. Granted, nicknames of nicknames are always a terrible idea.

Comet, on the other hand, sort of sounds like Canuck. More importantly, it’s a throwback to Utica’s hockey history, and it’s also appropriate in that they’ll be A) very far away, and B) Only visible for a short time since, from the sounds of it, this is just a temporary solution until the Canucks can free up Abbotsford. It’ll be interesting to see if their agreement with the city has an out clause. We’d imagine that it does, although, heck, maybe the Canucks wind up liking it there and eventually they move the big club East instead? Probably not, but keep an eye out for Gillis sporting an “I heart NY” t-shirt.

Other names that were considered, according to our sources deep in the know:

  • Utica Unicorns
  • Utica Utopia
  • Utica Fruitopia (sponsored, obviously)
  • Utica Ludicrous (which should, at the very least, be their tagline)
  • Utica Gattaca
  • Utica Dude-icas (which would have lent itself well to Big Lebowski cross-promotion opportunities)
  • Utica Erotica

I didn’t have a vote, but if I did, I would have voted for the last one, if only to to see if their jerseys would have turned out more suggestive than this one.

Speaking of their jerseys, they’ll be pretty close to what the Canucks wear. Here’s a look, via the Comets’ Facebook page:

Not bad, not bad.

And speaking of bad, here’s a prototype of their eventual third jerseys:

Bad, bad.

Anyway, from a hockey perspective, while the Canucks’ kids will be even further from home than Manitoba, Chicago, or Peoria, where they plucked this team from, Scott Arniel believes it will help them from a developmental perspective. From the Province:

“You pick their ice time and to have an opportunity whether you’re a first, second or third-year player to play and grow together — it really prepares them for the NHL,” the 50-year-old Arniel said from his Winnipeg home. “There was lots of pressure in Chicago and Manitoba to win because they’ve had a history of that. When you have that many bodies changing over and are trying to win games, it’s not good for anybody.

“But now, these kids can be in all kinds of situations whether it be the power play or penalty kill and being out there in the last minute of a game. That’s what they need, to just go out and not worry about the consequences of somebody taking their spot. It’s good for their confidence.”

Talk all you want about proximity — obviously, Abbotsford is a better geographical fit — but I think the Canucks would prefer autonomy, and that’s what they have now in Utica.

Finally, if Utica’s Mascot isn’t a comet named Gromit, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

17 comments

  1. Chris B
    June 14, 2013

    Hey – Utica is only about 3.5 hours from Ottawa. I can go down there and get some pics of the stadium to send!

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    • J21
      June 17, 2013

      As a fellow Ottawa-dweller, I had already thought about how I might be able to make a trip…

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  2. Thomas McShane
    June 14, 2013

    Tom Sestito was there because he is from nearby Rome NY. Also sir do some research and find out why the name Comets makes sense.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      June 14, 2013

      Jokes, man. Just jokes.

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      • Thomas McShane
        June 15, 2013

        I get it, banter is fun is it not? I like the old time retro jersey though, you? I am sure I have a couple of years on you though. We hope it works out though we have been kicked in the teeth enough in Upstate NY. Politicians you know.

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  3. PB
    June 14, 2013

    Also, Utica Dunder Mifflin became Karen Fillipelli’s home for her gig as regional manager. Clearly this played into the decision

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    • Jason
      June 17, 2013

      I hope they don’t burn Utica to the ground when they end up moving the team west.

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  4. iain
    June 14, 2013

    surprise you guys have not picked up on Utica’s main claim to hockey fame – according to wikipedia, the rink was one of the ones used to film Slapshot.

    does this mean we’re in for some old time hockey?

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    • Paul
      June 15, 2013

      Indeed it was. I was a hockey extra in the film way back in 1976, and the Auditorium was used for such iconic scenes as the pre-game brawl, the “I’m listenin’ to the effin’ song!” comeback, and the trip-the-goalie shot.

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      • Kenji
        June 17, 2013

        Paul, we will all be counting on you to see the Comets often and intently so that you can report back here on their progress!

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  5. Nee
    June 14, 2013

    The title of this post made me laugh. Well played Mooney.

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  6. Dave
    June 14, 2013

    *Super Nintendo Chalmers

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  7. DScar
    June 15, 2013

    This is awesome. Haven’t been back to Utica in a long time (teaching in Korea), but this is pretty great. AHL team again, throwing some recognition to Utica’s deep hockey history.

    Maybe the Steamed Hams would have been a clever moniker, but I’m just happy to see semi-pro hockey back in my hometown. I was…10 when Marty went pro there. It’s been quite a wait.

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  8. Dani
    June 15, 2013

    I was really hoping for the Canucks farmteam to relocate to the newly vacant Houston. I still think Houston’s a better option than what they picked – and not just because I’d get to go to all the home games. I actually think Houston’s a better option than Abbortsford in a lot of ways (all ways except for proximity to Vancouver). It’s a major sports city with a major international airport. The Aeros have always had a rabid fanbase and their league attendence has been in the top ten teams since 05-06, averaging an attendence in the 6,000s. Abbotsford’s averages attendence is in the 3,000s. That might increase if the Canucks farm team is put in Abbotsford, but the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre only has a capacity of 7,046. The Toyota Centre can hold 17,800; this April, there was a game against the Rampage that had an attendence of 13,506 fans. Abbotsford can’t hope to get an attendence that high. They can’t even hold that many people. Houston loves their hockey team, and, to be quite honest, they don’t really care who owns the team so long as they win, and especially so long as they beat the Rampage and the Stars. The only bad part of Houston hockey fans is that they’re kind of jerks and I don’t like them. That, and flights from Houston to Vancouver are eight hours long.

    Basically, the Canucks should have put their farmteam in Houston because I said so.

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  9. Michael
    June 15, 2013

    Whoever wrote this acticle needs a break to rethink his career

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  10. J21 (@Jyrki21)
    June 17, 2013

    Tom Sestito was likely there not only as a local boy, but because (if all goes well) he’ll be playing for them next year rather than the Canucks…!

    I was so pulling for Utica Nucks — nicknames for nicknames aren’t bad at all (note the history of the Dodgers’ nickname, or the New York Knicks or Mets — all classics!) Obviously “Utica Canucks” in full would make about as much sense as “Binghamton Senators” or “Capital District [which is Albany] Islanders”, although that might have been kind of charming — but the “Nucks” would have been a way around it.

    By the way, note how much better the Canucks’ jersey looks when the logo itself incorporates the, you know, team colors like every other NHL team? I don’t know who thought it was a great idea to put the logo in Tampa Bay colors on a blue and green jersey.

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  11. leftcoast
    June 17, 2013

    The question today is whether the league blocked them from moving to Wolves to Seattle? A 3m population, lots of sports channels and a two+ hour drive to Vancouver. I think it’s ploy by Bettman to bully Glendale, but it’s a hot rumor on PHT today.

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