Canucks Army Roundtable: Pull Up The Moving Trucks?


Our own J.D. Burke took a week off from the roundtable, which means they put me in charge! I wanted to ask what their favourite song off the Shrek soundtrack was, but apparently it has to be “relevant to the Canucks” or something. With the hot topic of AHL expansion coming up yet again, with the Coyotes relocating to Tuscon and apparently becoming the Roadrunners (which is just the best) the question was:

Whether they stay or go elsewhere, what do you see as the ideal situation for the Canucks to pursue once their agreement with Utica comes to a close?

Here’s what Canucks Army’s finest members came up with…..

Dylan Kirkby

I think staying in Utica makes sense – the shorter travel time compared to the west coast makes players lives easier, and they have a hugely supportive community there, which is far from a guarantee in a new city.

Taylor Perry

Although for the Canucks moving their AHL affiliate closer to Vancouver would make sense from a call-up perspective (provided the team was playing on the West Coast), the Utica Comets have been a resounding success  as an AHL franchise. Like Dylan said, there is no guarantee that a team based closer to Vancouver would be anywhere near as successful as the Comets. Furthermore, although for those select few who get called up over the course of an NHL season it might be more convenient, for most of the Comets it would incur more travel and upheaval in their lives. Many local fans might be excited to see Canucks prospects up close – as they did when the Abbotsford Heat existed – but the benefits of keeping the team in Utica outweigh the benefits of moving it … for now.


I am not a big fan of change and considering that they brought hockey back to Utica, I don’t want to be the one that takes it away. Sure, having the team close to the big club would be great but they’re making it work on the east coast and they’ve already seen “great success” (Borat voice).

Ideal, obviously having them in Abby/Pac Coliseum/somewhere close would be ideal. East Coast travel as DK said is huge. It’s a shame the travel isn’t like that on the west coast….but I’d rather live here any day.

Maybe the Canucks can move to Utica and Vancouver can take the Comets?

Jackson McDonald

I hate to be the guy that tells a wonderful fanbase like the one Utica has that their NHL affiliate ought not to renew their agreement, but I just don’t see how it makes sense in the long-term for the Canucks to have their AHL affiliate so far away from them.  I’m of the opinion that you should leave no stone unturned when it comes to giving yourself a competitive advantage, and that includes making sure your minor league call-ups are well-rested. I think there’s definitely a market for an AHL team close to Vancouver, especially if their parent club is the Canucks. On a more selfish note, I’d love to be able to go see Canucks prospects in person and that’s a virtual impossibility as their affiliation is currently structured.

Sarah Hobday

A big downside to Utica is not having Canucks
management and staff close by to watch and work with the prospects. Winnipeg
moving their AHL team last summer was huge for the prospects. Some great
articles throughout the season about how beneficial it was for the
prospects to have Jets staff to help them out like trainers and
nutritionists and such. Yes the travel schedule is great for Utica with
more time for rest. But as a side bar since they are in NY they cannot
have a sleeper bus (so no bunks for naps). And yes Utica had a strong
fan base but the city is not pleasant. Prospects would rather be
anywhere else. Guys on the bubble much prefer being in Kzoo because it
is a much better city to be in. Honestly have never heard a prospect say
they like Utica for the area.

Matthew Henderson

Ideally, you move the team closer to the west coast. In prior years, I’d agree with the fact the travel is better on the East so it makes more sense to keep them in Utica. However, with the new teams forming in California, and the AHL doing everything they can to ensure a competitive balance between them and the East, it frankly hurts the Canucks more not to have a team on the coast. 

Perhaps somewhere like Seattle or Portland could be options if they don’t want to move them into beautiful BC. Portland has always been thought of as an untapped market, and as you’ve seen for the Portland Timbers MLS franchise they are great fans. The Portland Winterhawks are there, however, and they are quite popular which may hurt their chances. The same thing can be said about Seattle, as everyone knows NHL talks have been tied to there for a few years, but couldn’t get off the ground due to stadium snags. An AHL franchise could be more inclined to play out of KeyArena or the newly built ShoWare Center which houses the WHL Thunderbirds. 

As for locally speaking, I’m interested to see how the Langley experiment plays out for the Giants. It’s been mentioned in the past that Giants ownership would be looking to build a new arena for the Giants if they desire, but if the Langley experiment works out for them, perhaps that could inspire an AHL move to Langley. Chilliwack (WHL) and Abbotsford (AHL) have both had teams in the past, but I worry they are too far out (and away from transit) to justify the move there, even with the draw of future Canucks on the ice. 

In wrapping, a move to this side of the continent is a better move for the franchise.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    Can an NHL team have two affiliates? IE Keep Utica and also add another team in the west and divide Canucks prospects between the two teams?

    I seem to remember that Travis Green didn’t necessarily play Canucks draft picks as much as other players since his goal was to win games, not develop draft picks. Having two affiliates would give draft picks potentially more game time.

    • Whackanuck

      That would be cool. I wonder if it would make financial sense. That is, do sell-out ahl clubs actually make money for the owners? When calculating, I wouldn’t include buried or one way contracts as that’s a big club decision.

      But, taking into account ahl only salaries does it make sense? Canucks can start franchising AHL teamsXD

  • TrueBlue

    Canucks should join the other west coast based teams moving their AHL teams to the west coast. Travel won’t be as bad as when most AHL teams were out in the East. Not the case anymore.

    Also, colosseum needs a hockey team again. too much history/tradition there for it to rot like that.

    and it would be great to see some AHL action for vancouver fans, especially those who don’t want to watch the canucks suck for the next few years. Sell hope!

  • TrueBlue

    Only real reasons to move the club to the west coast is so the team can work more closely with the prospects and conduct call-ups more smoothly.

    Downside of moving them closer is that it would feel less like an independent team. The big thing the Utica Comets have going for it is that it’s a bonafide regional hockey team. Playing for the Comets means something beyond just “making the Canucks”. I think there’s a huge benefit in that.

    As long as we run a very tight ship in Utica, I think our players will develop much more effectively, and really feel what it means to play for a fanbase that cares. That’s better prep for Vancouver than anything else I could imagine.

  • SJ

    More roundtables like this please (snark not always necessary!); really good and well-informed discussion about the pros and cons. I also was mainly thinking about both the easier travel schedule out east and the high level of competition that Utica gets exposed to but it’s undeniable that being closer would allow the senior management team to have a more detailed view of the prospects and to allow the support team to help out more in getting them ready for the pros.

    In looking through the list of AHL affiliates, I think the Canucks are one of the farthest away from their farm team. The only other ones I see are Montreal (St John’s), Tampa Bay (Syracuse), and Florida (Portland, Maine) and Nashville (Milwaukee). Arizona used to have one of the worst (Springfield MA) but that’s changing as the post points out. 22 teams seem to have their affiliates either in the same city or in the general geographic vicinity.

  • Dirty30

    Medicine Hat?

    Actually, Victoria, Kelowna or even Nanaimo would be good choices if they could make it work.

    Seattle is also a good choice as there are connections with other sports like football, baseball, basketball and soccer so sports fans are already familiar with the city and the travel to get there.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    Hell if they move to the lower mainland, I will definitely watch some games. I used to go to about 1 game per year for Vancouver Giants but the atmosphere has died since glory days of Lucic, Kane, Cunningham, Sexsmith. Watching players who could soon be called up is very attractive. And this provides a much better way for fans to analyze the B/C+ level prospects of the organization. Even with Seattle you could organize bus trips down south for fans to cheer on the team. Develop a great atmosphere. Utica has a huge, dedicated fanbase that will be very hard to match but I feel most fans prefer close proximity to the team like the Jets as Sarah mentioned. I’m on board!

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    Put ’em in the Coliseum. Can you imagine how easy it would be calling up/sending down players? They wouldn’t even have to find a new place!

  • BR(j)ED

    Kelowna isn’t an option because the Rockets are far too established.

    However a 40 min drive south to Penticton would be ideal.

    Ppl who wanted to see the prospects could come from anywhere in the okanagan or even drive up from the Lower Mainland if they wanted to.

    Penticton has a long and rather illustrious hockey history .

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    In order for relocation at ion of ahl team I believe Calgary,Edmonton, etc have to move teams west also.The bus travel would be too much otherwise.

    Although I do think that Okanagan would be a good location, the distance is a factor unless we could get a couple teams in BC, a team in Alberta, Saskatchewan , Oregon and Washington.(a pacific division)

  • SJ

    I think this is a pretty tough decision, actually.

    It’s hard to put an AHL team this far north on the west coast. Even Seattle or Portland are a long way from the other teams in the AHL’s Western Conference. The closest one is in Stockton, then you’ve got San Jose, Bakersfield, Ontario (LA), San Diego, and 2 Texas teams. That’s a hell of a travel schedule if you’re based in the PNW.

    The other option is to put your team, with the rest, in California, but those are not exactly hungry markets begging for minor league hockey franchises. You’ve got a successful thing going in Utica, with great fans and a great arena, do you really want to bail on it for that? And does it really make that much difference calling players up from Southern California vs. New York?

    Utica’s proximity to major airports also somewhat nullifies the call-ups issue – they can get guys out here pretty quick when they have a choice of several major airports all offering direct flights.

    I see the bigger issue being the development side, but to really max out that advantage would mean having the team right in your backyard (Pacific Coliseum, Langley, Abby), which puts that team at a huge disadvantage when it comes to travel in the AHL’s Pacific Division.

    Tough call. I think I’d keep the team in Utica myself.

  • Whackanuck

    Sarah must not of talked to any players in utica or who have played here. Ask Alex beiga.. he loved it here. For those of you who have not been to utica and experienced the city or the AUD I ask you to not put my city on blast. We are trying to rebuild our city into the greatness it once was and we are on the right track. OUR comets are loved here and they love us and our city.