Abbotsford Heat may be put out next year: report
Published Sunday, February 24, 2013 6:03PM PST
Last Updated Sunday, February 24, 2013 6:30PM PST
A U.S. sports blogger has shaken up Metro Vancouver’s sports world by suggesting the Abbotsford Heat may soon be extinguished.
Don Laible of the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported Sunday that the Calgary Flames’ American Hockey League affiliate is packing up and moving to Utica, New York next season.
“Here’s what we do know, according to a reliable source. A 10-year-deal has been struck with the Flames,” Laible wrote in his blog.
While a spokesperson for the Calgary Flames confirmed the team was contacted by representatives in Utica concerning a bid for the AHL team, they said it doesn’t mean a move is a done deal.
“We are under contract and committed to Abbotsford, and have made no alternate commitments,” the team said.
But hopes have ignited that the Vancouver Canucks minor league affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, would fill the void left by the Heat if they move.
Since the fall, hockey fans have speculated that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is trying to buy the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre, move the Heat out and bring the Wolves in.
“If this was the Canucks’ farmhands, it would make a big difference, I think, not only for ticket sales, but for sponsorships,” said Team 1040 radio’s Tom Mayenknecht.
When the Wolves come to town, attendance at the AEA spikes, Mayenknecht said.
“It’s the Flames’ brand in a Canucks market.”
The change might be a welcome one for the city, as the Flames’ farm team rarely fills the 7,000-seat Abbotsford Entertainment Arena to capacity.
Abbotsford has spent more than $3.5-million over the Heat’s past three seasons to cover shortfalls in attendance, as part of a ten year deal.
The team has the fifth-lowest attendance rate in the 30-team league.
Mayenknecht warned the affiliate agreement between Abbotsford and Calgary is complicated and a potential move would take some time to complete, but it could come sooner than many expect.
“This isn’t going to be something that drags for months on end,” he said. “I think it’ll be definitive one way or another very soon.”
Abbotsford mayor Bruce Banman said he couldn't comment because he's been given no information on the potential deal.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Julia Foy