What most of us who follow the American Hockey League thought should happen but maybe never believed it would, came to some sort of fruition at the end of January 2015.
The AHL announced that from the 2015/16 season there would be a new division in the form of the Pacific, made up with brand new teams as NHL organisations made bold moves as regards the future of their farm teams.
The Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals and relocate it from Norfolk, Virginia, to San Diego, California. No name as yet (announcement due February 22) but the new San Diego team will play home games at the Valley View Casino Centre. Former teams in SD were known as Mariners and Gulls
The Calgary Flames will relocate the Adirondack Flames from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Stockton, California after just one season of the new franchise. Calgary has acquired the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL and will relocate that team to Glens Falls as the Adirondack Thunder.
Edmonton Oilers will relocate Oklahoma City Barons from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Bakersfield, California. The ECHL incarnation of the Bakersfield Condors will be relocating to Norfolk, Virginia to become the ECHL version of the Norfolk Admirals, replacing the original Norfolk Admirals of the AHL.
San Jose Sharks will shift the Worcester Sharks from Worcester, Massachusetts, to San Jose, California. No name has been confirmed but for the time being the former Worcester Sharks will play at San Jose’s NHL building.
The AHL franchise owned by the Los Angeles Kings will relocate from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Ontario, California. This team will be known as the Ontario Reign.
I know that’s a lot of information to take in but there will be doubtless more between now and October to digest.
All the organisations involved mentioned travelling and better access to watching their farm teams and prospects on a more regular basis, along with the capability to move players, especially call-ups with more ease and quicker. Also thrown out there was more practise time and it was hinted that the schedule could once more be reduced from 76 games, having recently been adjusted from 82.
Considering the majority of AHL games are played Friday-Sunday, this isn’t necessarily a compelling argument when often during homesteads, teams have often too much time to practise and go stale between competitive action during the season.
What this huge move forward might do is further change the landscape of the AHL in the very near future. There are still some huge distances between NHL teams and their affiliates and some examples are as follows:
St. John’s IceCaps – Winnipeg Jets 2980 miles/4800km
Utica Comets – Vancouver Canucks 2920 miles/4700KM
Portland Pirates – Arizona Coyotes 2600 miles/4180KM
Lake Erie Monsters – Colorado Avalanche 1400 miles/2250KM
Syracuse Crunch – Tampa Bay Lightning 1200 Miles/1900KM
San Antonio – Florida Panthers 1200 miles/1900KM
Milwaukee Admirals – Nashville Predators 550 miles/885KM
Now we know Winnipeg are going to relocate the IceCaps in the next season or two, most likely to North Bay if you believe reports. I wonder if there’s now not a little pressure on those AHL teams listed with the recent moves.
The Milwaukee/Nashville distance might not look a big deal but it’s still a days journey by car or more likely a flight to watch prospects etc. Cincinnati has an ECHL team and is only half the distance so there would be options if Nashville wanted the join the revolution.
There is still going to be more movement concerning divisions and most likely conference’s during the summer and we could have a real shake up. A no-brainer from my point of view would be placing the Toronto Marlies in the Eastern Conference along with the likes of Rochester and Hamilton.
The future is not set in stone in the AHL as the developmental league is going through one of the biggest developments of it’s recent history.
I may well speculate and what could happen at a later date.