California teams moving AHL affiliations West; will Canucks be enticed?

Last week, the Calgary Flames made like me in my early twenties and declared that they were done with Abbotsford. After five years in the Fraser Valley, the NHL team announced that they were moving their AHL franchise somewhere else.

On the surface, one might say there were about 4000 problems. That’s the number of empty seats the Abbotsford Enterainment and Sports Centre had on a nightly basis, with the Heat drawing just 3000 fans. But really, the primary issue driving Calgary out had less to do with the people of the city, and more to do with where the city was. As I explained in Friday’s blog post, the Heat were basically on an island. With the closest teams thousands of kilometers away, the Flames prospects found themselves in transit far more often than they found themselves in their bed, or in their home arena, practicing. Turning a kid into a pro takes time, and the lengthy trips took too much of it away.

This is the same issue the Canucks would face if they were to immediately move their prospects to Abbotsford. Sure, the parent club is a bus ride away, but the Comets wouldn’t be playing the parent club. They’d still be playing mostly East Coast teams. It’s so bad that the AHL’s “Western Division” includes three teams from Texas, and one team from North Carolina.

But all that is about to change. According to a report from Mayor’s Manor, the AHL is preparing a landmark shift, with five or six Western teams planning to move their prospects into Western markets:

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