The Utica Comets were a last chance saloon for the Vancouver Canucks.
After purchasing the Rivermen franchise, Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CS&E) made their intentions known to have the franchise located in a market close to Vancouver. Their initial preference was Abbotsford, British Columbia, which was home to the Calgary Flames’ AHL farm club, the Abbotsford Heat, who had been rumoured to relocate to Utica, New York at the time.
Negotiations between the Canucks and Abbotsford broke down by April 22, ensuring the Abbotsford Heat would stay.
Vancouver could not bring their new team to the Rogers Arena as reported because it would infringe the 50 mile territorial radius AHL rule, due to Abbotsford being within that radius.
An “alleged” plan to have the team play in Seattle at the Key Arena was vetoed by the NHL as Seattle were an apparent candidate to land the troubled Phoenix franchise. We all know how that worked out with money talking in the desert.
Stuck with the possibility of leaving the franchise dormant and loaning players out for the season, CS&E came to an agreement with Utica as late as June 14th 2013. Hardly an ideal solution with Vancouver and Utica, New York around 3000 miles apart.
With all that turmoil it’s perhaps not a little surprising that the Utica Comets have struggled in their inaugural season.
After eight games they have a record of 0-6-1-1, left searching for their first victory and currently lie at the foot of the standings.
After being affiliated with the Chicago Wolves for the past two season (a franchise who own themselves and very much do their own thing) perhaps Vancouver is looking to build it’s own franchise from the bottom up, maybe in the way Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs did with the Toronto Marlies.
Playing in the soon to be renovated Utica Memorial Auditorium with a capacity of 4000, the crowds have been averaging around 3200 thus far. You’d probably recognise “The Aud” from the 1977 film Slapshot.
There hasn’t been hockey in Utica since one season in 2003/04 and not much before that since the 1980’s so they will need to build a fan base of their own.
Winning games, well just one game, would be the best way to do that.
From a personal point of you I hope it’s not this forthcoming Tuesday 5th November when they face my Toronto Marlies at The Auld.
Here’s hoping they find their feet this season and build a fine AHL franchise for future years.