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Canucks' AHL affiliate may move from Utica

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Drive-By Body Pierce

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Canucks' AHL affiliate may move from Utica

Robert Esche, president of the Utica Comets, appears to be preparing for a possible change in affiliation.

Author of the article:
Patrick Johnston
Publishing date:

Apr 17, 2021  • Last Updated 21 hours ago  •  2 minute read



It’s not a done deal, but there’s a chance the Utica Comets may not be affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks in 2021-22.


Comets president Robert Esche registered “Utica Devils” as a trademark with the U.S. government’s Trademark and Patent Office earlier this month, a step that suggests he’s preparing for the possibility his Utica, N.Y.-based team will change NHL parent clubs ahead of next season.

“I’m not aware of any information regarding this,” a spokesperson for the Utica Comets said in an email.



The Canucks’ current six-year deal with the Comets, which began with the 2019-20 season, features an opt-out clause after the current season. The Canucks would have to exercise the option to leave Utica for the Devils to take over.


The AHL’s board of governors would have final say on a relocation but it’s unlikely they would turn down a move. And while far-flung teams like the St. John’s Growlers once subsidized opposing teams to travel to play them — St. John’s and Charlotte were the last two teams to do so — that practice has been prohibited by the AHL board.


The Comets have been a dual affiliation this season between the Canucks and the St. Louis Blues, due to COVID-19 border controls. The Canucks kept a number of players on their taxi squad who would normally be assigned outright to the AHL and also loaned several players to Canadian-based AHL teams so they wouldn’t have to quarantine as long if they were to be recalled.


Since first joining up in the 2013-14 season, the Canucks have taken care of player and coach salaries, while Esche’s Mohawk Valley Garden Inc. pays for the rest. The Canucks own the actual AHL franchise but the physical team belongs to Esche and his partners, who pay the Canucks an annual fee to operate the franchise.

Whether the Canucks would simply switch affiliations to Binghamton, which is about two hours south of Utica, isn’t known and a comment from the Canucks wasn’t yet available.


Canucks ownership has expressed interest in using the Abbotsford Centre, which was formerly home to the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, as a base for their AHL team in the past. A number of NHL teams, including the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, have moved their AHL teams to California in recent years.


They also might look at the Pacific Coliseum.


The New Jersey Devils based their AHL affiliate in Utica from 1987 to 1993 and that team was called the Utica Devils.



Edited by Drive-By Body Pierce
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4 minutes ago, -AJ- said:

Very happy that Utica would still get a team in the Devils. Those fans 100% deserve a pro team. So fiercely loyal.



As for where our affiliate would move, I would personally love Abbotsford, being born and raised there as well as living only 30-ish minutes away from there. I would probably try going to a lot of games if they were that close to home.

Abbotsford is actually perfect as they already have a nice rink, have the experience of having an AHL team already, and a lot of fans from the Fraser Valley and the Tri-Cities who normally don’t attend Canuck games can go see the AHL team.

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Yeah, nothing confirmed on Utica's end, but with New Jersey announcing they would be moving their farm team around the same time, it's, well, here's my post from the Utica thread where it's already being discussed:

On 4/17/2021 at 11:25 AM, elvis15 said:

And it's official that Binghamton has been notified by New Jersey that the team will be relocated.



With Esche registering the Utica Devils trademark around the same time, it's definitely suggestive, but if New Jersey is so demanding then I'm not as sure why Esche and the Utica ownership would be so interested in partnering with them. Obviously if the Canucks have told them they eventually want come out West, then Esche would want to have a plan to keep hockey in Utica, but we don't know if that's the case.

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It does make sense to have it local to Vancouver.


It makes  it easier for the big club to keep an eye on players and use their resources/medical staff to help the prospects.


More importantly, it buys us an extra million or so in cap space.  You can run with less than a full 23 man roster, especially when not on the road,

if you can just get a guy to drive down the road for a game if need be to fill in for a last minute injury.


Having said that, I am in the Okanagan now and would love to be able to see some games... so Kelowna would be good too!

Edited by Provost
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2 hours ago, internationalhippy said:

i hope its not in B.C.


farm teams are mainly for developing project players, don't need them around the toxic vancouver media

People always say this but is can media any worse than Toronto's? I'm in Australia so I guess I can't really come by on that aspect. I think being close to coaches like Ian Clarke, having more control over medical specialists etc would be an advantage.  Ease of moving personal around I think it outweighs the media stuff. I feel players are a bit more savy to that sort of stuff now and can block it out .

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4 hours ago, Junkyard Dog said:

I am leaning more towards Kelowna or maybe Victoria. 

Okanogan is a good growing area. 

If it's good for growing prospects, I'm all for it!:lol:


But seriously, if the Canucks moved their farm team to BC, their prospects would spend by far the most time travelling and have by far the least practice time and time to focus on skill development than any other NHL team's farm team.  It would be play, travel, play, travel, play, travel, practice, play, practice, travel, play, travel...you get the picture.  Basically, it would be exactly the opposite situation of what they have in Utica now, where the proximity of all their division rivals gives them less travel and as much or more time to practice and develop players than any other team in the league.  It's been a very enviable situation for player development, no question.

Edited by Captain Canuck #12
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I'm all for them being in the Lower Mainland.  

Going to Canucks games (at least prior to Petersson), wasn't really good value.  Throw in food and drinks from the concessions for couples' night out.... suddenly a weekend trip out to Maui is starting to look like a better deal. 

I can't imagine being my kids when they are older either... I ain't made out of money.  


But to watch the Junior Canucks at a fraction of the cost?  Sign me up.  

With the exception of playoff hockey, the effort and passion for the games for the WHL seems higher.  I'm assuming the same effort and passion will also be there for AHL players that are hoping to make it to the big leagues.  


While the Pacific Coliseum would be a good venue with the history and all... it's way to outdated.  Abbotsford's arena will be better.  Unless they will also play out of Roger's Arena.  


A question... are there any issues with AHL players also training with NHL players too?  Like have the goalies for the AHL team training with the staff and shooters from the NHL side.  

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