Canucks fans can love the Heat while still hating the Flames

During last year’s AHL playoffs, the Abbotsford Heat swept the Milwaukee Admirals, earning them a berth in the second round against the Toronto Marlies. After winning the first game, the Marlies won the next three, making game five one of the greatest events in hockey: a playoff elimination game.

With the Canucks already eliminated from the playoffs, the Heat were hoping that hockey-hungry fans would flock to the Abbotsford Sports & Entertainment Centre to take in the action. Instead, a paltry 1360 fans showed up for what turned out to be a thrilling overtime game. I was one of the few people in attendance and it was thoroughly depressing to see so many empty seats.

I understand why it happened of course. It was risky to plant the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames in the heart of Canucks country and the terrible branding and marketing did little to separate the Heat from the Flames in the minds of most fans. Their more recent slogan “Our Town. Our Team.” that I’ve seen on signs around Abbotsford is far better, but it’s too little, too late for many. Most Canucks fans just can’t wrap their minds around the idea of cheering for the affiliate of one of the Canucks’ biggest rivals, even during an NHL lockout where the Heat are the only professional hockey within driving distance.

Let me help you remove that roadblock: if you cheer for the Heat, you want the Flames to be terrible. Becoming a Heat fan won’t make you into a Flames fan by proxy; instead, it will simply heighten your hate.

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The Chicago Wolves’ playoff push could be made or broken this week in Abbotsford

The Chicago Wolves are back in town this Thursday and Friday for another two-game set with the Abbotsford Heat, and if you missed them the last time around, make sure you head into the Valley for one or both of these games. They might be the biggest games of the year for both teams.

We’re all a little spoiled here in Vancouver — it’s been a few years since the home team was locked in a nerve-wracking race to make the playoffs. But if it’s desperate hockey you want, the Wolves are where it’s at. There are 5 points separating 3rd from 10th in the AHL’s Western Conference, and the Wolves, in keeping with their wolfy nature, are a part of the pack.

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