Flames: "We remain committed to our fans and partners in Abbotsford"

Thomas Drance
April 04 2013 11:29AM

It has been rumoured for months that the Canucks would attempt to supplant the Abbotsford Heat with their own AHL affiliate in the Fraser Valley. That chatter has picked up steam recently as the Team 1040's Tom Mayenknecht reported that the Canucks would purchase the Peoria Rivermen (which did happen earlier this week) with an eye on moving them to some local destination (preferably Abbotsford). 

The stumbling block has long been the presence of the Calgary Flames, who are in the third year of a ten year lease agreement with the city of Abbotsford. From the sounds of it - though, of course we should take such statements with a dumptruck load of salt - the Flames don't exactly sound eager to facilitate the deal.

Read on past the jump.

Here's a statement from the Flames, via the Calgary Herald, on the recent speculation about moving their AHL affiliate to Utica, or a "three team trade" involving themselves, the Blues and the Canucks:

“On behalf of our fans and on behalf of our local partners in the Abbotsford Heat, we wish to emphasize that there is no ‘three-way deal’ (or any other deal) that will see the Canucks move their development program to Abbotsford for next season,” the Flames said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “We remain committed to our fans and partners in Abbotsford and look forward to sharing many more seasons with them.”

That sounds definitive but if we decide to split hairs it doesn't actually tell us much. First of all, what else are the Flames going to say? Secondly, they specifically refute the "three-way deal" notion which is obviously off the table with the Canucks having already purchased the Rivermen (and probably never even existed outside of Ed Willes' head). 

My point here is just that the Flames' recent public denial shouldn't be read as iron clad. Also Calgary's almost certainly does nothing to change Vancouver's plans. In a piece in which he got original quotes from Mike Gillis, Iain Macintyre wrote the following earlier this week: "The Canucks will relocate the American Hockey League team from Illinois to an as-yet determined city nearer Vancouver."

Macintyre's declaration echoes Tom Mayenknecht's most recent reporting on these issues too (at this point, Mayenknecth has been by far the most reliable source of Canucks/AHL-affiliate information):

In summary, it still sounds an awful lot like a Canucks owned and operated AHL-affiliate will be playing somewhere locally regardless of whether or not the Flames vacate Abbotsford. Hopefully the Flames will vacate, however, because if that's how this goes down, the big loser will unquestionably be Abbotsford taxpayers...

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 Simon
April 04 2013, 11:47AM
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Moving them into Rogers Arena would be a solid temporary solution. They would definitely be better off in the Valley though if the Flames will accommodate. It would allow the Canucks to expand their foot print and become more accessible to people across BC.

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#2 DCR
April 04 2013, 12:02PM
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When I hear the Flames say "...committed to our fans and partners..." I see overtones of the greedy landlord in a melodrama.

They don't have many fans in the Fraser Valley, and sure do seem to be more taking advantage of their "partners" than working with them.

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#3 J21 (@Jyrki21)
April 04 2013, 01:03PM
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Watch the Rivermen set up shop in Chilliwack, heh. See how the Flames like that.

In all seriousness, why does the NHL have to have all its minor-league affiliates in a single league? Why not smaller regional leagues like in soccer and baseball to cut down on travel?

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#4 Unknown Comic
April 04 2013, 02:24PM
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J21 (@Jyrki21) wrote:

Watch the Rivermen set up shop in Chilliwack, heh. See how the Flames like that.

In all seriousness, why does the NHL have to have all its minor-league affiliates in a single league? Why not smaller regional leagues like in soccer and baseball to cut down on travel?

Dump the farm team in Red Deer and run Sutter's team out of town while milking taxpayers. Seems like the Alberta way to do business.

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#5 Boxersam
April 04 2013, 02:29PM
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I thought your A.H.L. Team was in Calgary ? Looks good on you. Watch a real NHL team beat the Oilers tonight.

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#6 SeanCharles
April 04 2013, 02:34PM
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So where will St. Louis' prospects play?

What will come of Chicago Wolves?

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#7 Origamirock
April 04 2013, 02:41PM
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SeanCharles wrote:

So where will St. Louis' prospects play?

What will come of Chicago Wolves?

I think you just answered each of your questions with the other. As far as I know, St. Louis was supposed to take over the Wolves.

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#8 SeanCharles
April 04 2013, 02:45PM
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Origamirock wrote:

I think you just answered each of your questions with the other. As far as I know, St. Louis was supposed to take over the Wolves.

Why havent the Chicago Wolves been sold to St. Louis then?

It makes sense since Chicago is too good a market to move the AHL out of...

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#9 Kent Wilson
April 04 2013, 02:57PM
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@SeanCharles

Chicago is owned and operated independently and one of the few profitable AHL teams in existence. They had a basic affiliation agreement with the Canucks, but nothing more...which is part of the reason VAN is looking for their "own" AHL club.

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#10 Baalzamon
April 04 2013, 03:52PM
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"It has been rumoured for months that the Canucks would attempt to supplant the Abbotsford Heat with their own AHL affiliate in the Fraser Valley."

ha. That's hilarious. It's been "rumoured" non-stop for the past 3 years--for the entire existence of the Abbotsford Heat. I literally can't remember a time over that period when a deal for Vancouver to take over the Heat wasn't "imminent."

Until more comes of this than groundless posturing, I say Bah! Humbug.

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#11 Jay
April 04 2013, 04:18PM
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Heat vs Flames?? I say Heat wins 6-2

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#12 Jamie
April 04 2013, 04:31PM
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I'm sceptical about Peoria being re-located to the Lower Mainland. Yes, there's already a team in Abbotsford, but it imposes a brutal and expensive travel schedule.

Just look at the location of the other teams in the AHL "Western Conference". Toronto, Hamilton, Milwaukee, Texas, Oklahoma, etc.

Perhaps that's good preparation for playing in Vancouver, but I just don't see it.

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#13 Scary Gary
April 04 2013, 04:52PM
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There's no incentive for the flames to move their AHL affiliate under the current deal, it makes sense for Vancouver and St.Louis location-wise but who cares (other than the City of Abbotsford)?

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#14 gotommygo
April 04 2013, 05:14PM
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Scary Gary wrote:

There's no incentive for the flames to move their AHL affiliate under the current deal, it makes sense for Vancouver and St.Louis location-wise but who cares (other than the City of Abbotsford)?

Maybe as an incentive they could get Vancouver to give them a couple of mediocre prospects and conditional first round draft pick ...

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#15 Primo
April 04 2013, 05:20PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

"It has been rumoured for months that the Canucks would attempt to supplant the Abbotsford Heat with their own AHL affiliate in the Fraser Valley."

ha. That's hilarious. It's been "rumoured" non-stop for the past 3 years--for the entire existence of the Abbotsford Heat. I literally can't remember a time over that period when a deal for Vancouver to take over the Heat wasn't "imminent."

Until more comes of this than groundless posturing, I say Bah! Humbug.

If the Flames are posturing for potentially a better deal good for them!!

But they need to be careful...The Abbotsford fan base averages less than 3000 per game. It is a losing franchise other than the sweet arena / tax deal with the City than they can eventually leverage in the future selling cost.

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#16 RexLibris
April 04 2013, 05:55PM
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When the Flames management comes out with a statement like the one above, I can't help but interpret it as reverse in unspoken intent.

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#17 Rumor Dejour
April 04 2013, 07:31PM
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On the Pass it to Bulis website, a poster wrote that Aqulini is trying to buy Abbotsfords arena. He said city council had a behind closed doors meeting in which Aquilini was recently denied the request. Apparently, it wasn't enough $$, but that he'll be making another proposal shortly. Poster also said Heats owners are peeved what Aqulini is doing.

So if Aquilini can buy this arena, does that mean he can terminate or buy out the Heats lease agreement? Cause if the Heat don't want to leave, this might be the only option for Canucks. How sneaky would that be? Lol. Money talks.

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#18 RexLibris
April 04 2013, 10:35PM
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Speaking of the Heat, I just noticed that they are currently sitting 11th in the Western Conference, well back of the playoff cut line with many of the competing teams having up to four games in hand.

They seem to have quietly come unraveled these past few months.

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#19 McRib
April 04 2013, 11:39PM
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The Heat have posted losses of $3.25 million in 2011 and $1.7 million in 2012... Why are we trying so hard to make this work in Canucks territory... The worst thing about this whole situation, is that the Flames are forced to bring in older pros to stay competitive pushing "prospects" out of key positions and out of valuable ice time. We also seem to be calling up players so sporadically they never get in a grove anywhere...

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#20 EZ money formula
April 05 2013, 04:02AM
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