Photo Credit: Utica Comets / Twitter

Canucks extend AHL affiliation with Utica Comets for up to six years

Some big news dropped this evening as the Vancouver Canucks and Utica Comets announced that they have reached an agreement to extend their AHL affiliation for up to six more seasons but guaranteed to remain there until at least the end of the 2020-21 season.

As Ben Birnell with the Observer-Dispatch reporter shortly after the deal was announced, both sides felt that reaching an agreement was inevitable and it was just a matter of time. Unless I am mistaken, a deal had to be reached by December 31st, so they were working with a deadline and were able to come to said agreement a day early.

There has been a lot of debate that about whether the Canucks should have their farm team in upstate New York as it presents a travel issue when a player is needed in a short period of time but there is little doubt that the Comets are well supported within the community. Including tonight’s Comets game, they have a sell-out streak of 132 straight games and counting. The building is rocking and even despite some early season struggles, the fans filled the barn every night.

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Canucks management has pointed to that atmosphere and the ability to practice often as some of the main reasons why they like the farm team to be in Utica. GM Jim Benning remarked about the Comets fans in the press release:

“We are very pleased to continue our partnership with Utica,” said Jim Benning, General Manager, Canucks Sports and Entertainment. “The Comets share our organization’s level of commitment and philosophy in player development, providing a strong environment for growth. We believe the culture in Utica, combined with the great fan support and atmosphere at games, will continue to be beneficial for the players in our system.”

With the Canucks having so many prospects that they hope to be a part of the future, it makes sense why they wanted to keep the team where they are and keep that boisterous atmosphere surrounding them.

  • I thought for sure the all mighty $ was going to rule and bring the Comets to Van. You know, make and spend money here.
    I was wrong, but happy for the city of Utica and their fans. Also, this does allow Canucks to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s going on out east. Not sure how important that is, just a thought.

  • Killer Marmot

    All they need is a private jet standing by at Oneida County Airport fueled and ready to go. Commercially its at least 12 hours from the player’s house to Rogers Arena.

  • Kanuckhotep

    The continuity is very important for the association between the Canucks and the city of Utica. Still I like the idea of a farm team playing at the Pacific Coliseum but I’m sure there must be good reasons this isn’t happening. I know I’d support it.

    • Killer Marmot

      One of the problems is the enormous amount of traveling a farm team in Vancouver would have to do. In central NY state, the distances to your opponents’ arenas are a lot shorter. That leaves more time for practice.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    The question becomes: is the purpose of the farm team to provide players for short term emergency callups (realistically, the challenge of getting a guy to meet the team on a super last minute basis is probably an issue 2-3 times a season, if that, being that the team carries at least one spare forward and defenceman and seldom do multiple last minute injuries pop up needing such quick turnaround with a spare player), or is it to develop the prospects as best as possible? I’d argue that the latter is more important, and that the players are thus better served to practise, workout, attend strategy sessions and rest as much as possible, rather than spending endless hours on planes and in airports. Add to that the fact that Utica seems to be a great hockey environment with supportive, enthusiastic fans, and this looks like an easy call.

  • Fred-65

    I drive through Northern NY state/ PA/OH and frankly the trvel time between many of those clubs is a short bus ride. Teams back in their own beds after game. While we’re always complaining of the disparity of the travel time between the Rangers, Flyers etc. and the Canucks some are quite willing to for go that argument when it comes to the farm team. It’s as important to the Comets as it is to the Canucks. I’m glad they have taken the sensible route. Plus of course the income in Utica is in US$ while it would fall 30% in BC with the C$


    Honestly a last minute call up is very rare. Travel and practice is very consequential in development.
    Also think about the players! Utica may not be the sexiest city but affordable for AHL vets and boring for young players! Perfect combo.

  • Defenceman Factory

    As others have said Utica is been a very supportive town and the travel advantages from playing in the East are significant. There are a couple other reasons I like the farm in Utica.

    It increases the team’s ability to make good deals with eastern conference teams. Cull and company get a first hand look at the prospects of eastern affiliates and Utica players can be more easily scouted by them.

    One of the best reasons to stay in Utica is to be away from the Vancouver media. Best to keep developing kids away from the many vultures that “write” in this market.

  • TheRealPB

    Completely agree with others that the few times a year we actually have an issue with a call-up (I think Boucher this year?) and travel are more than outweighed by the travel and development time in a hockey-mad market like Utica. Looking at the travel for especially Pacific but also Central division teams in the AHL, it mirrors the NHL. Way better for prospects to develop out east. The one thing I’d like to see is a better or at least better articulated strategy for developing the main prospects at the AHL level. I think at least some kind of reserved slots for them (rather than AHL vets or PTO players) would be good. Even when they were beset by injuries or too many call-ups it didn’t seem like a lot of opportunity for the really young players.

    • Sandpaper

      Nice too see the Comets agreement.
      Can’t say I see a problem with how many young prospects are being played in Utica.
      Up until the injuries hit on defense, the Comets had Chatfield, Juolevi and Brisebois consistently, in the lineup. These 3 are rookies or 2nd year pro’s.
      Up front, MacEwen, Dahlen, Jasek were pĺaying regularly, as was another ahl rookie, in McMaster, Lind and Gadjovich and Palmu were trying and have started finding there way in the league, or have moved elsewhere to continue developing.
      Not sure how many 1st and 2nd year players you think should be in the lineup, But, I would think the minimum of 7 they have been using regularly, is sufficient, now that the Canucks actually have that many to play.

  • Few Comets are blue-chip prospects, a lot of the roster are long shots or career AHLers. The median house price in Utica is $99k USD. The average ELC pays $70k in the AHL.
    Having the farm team in an affordable city eliminates any downside to attracting players to the Comets.