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

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…

  • DCR

    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.

  • DCR

    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.

  • DCR

    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?

  • DCR

    “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.

    • gotommygo

      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.

  • Scary Gary

    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.

  • Scary Gary

    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)?

  • RexLibris

    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.

  • RexLibris

    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.

  • McRib

    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…