As the AHL Pacific starts to prepare themselves for next season, one team that should be a little concerned with what’s going on with them is the Stockton AHL team. It’s not because it’s not a good enough market or not the right people are in place. The problem could be who is moving in, as the Calgary Flames seem to be the death of many markets in the AHL; leaving a trail of worry and merchandise in their wake.
After the Saint John Flames left after the 2002-03 season, their 10th and final season in New Brunswick; the Flames have moved their affiliation all over North America. Two years in a split affiliation with the Carolina Hurricanes in Lowell with the Lock Monsters, then two seasons in Omaha as the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, then another two season in Moline, Illinois as the Quad City Flames before heading super westwardly in Abbotsford, British Columbia as the Heat. The Heat lasted five seasons before going to Glens Falls, New York as the Adirondack Thunder. As the Stockton area is looking at the AHL as a nice upgrade– and it seems like it can’t fail; the history of going through North American cities should be a little bit worrisome going forward.
The downfall of the Abbotsford Heat and the millions of dollars in losses they caused the city is well documented the happenings in Moline and Omaha weren’t as well noted; but the same issue of lack of ticket sales, thus bringing a lack of attendance were cited. The Quad City incident saw the Flames release the Quad City ownership group that was in place, despite three years being left on the deal with the city and arena.
This year, the Adirondack team is averaging 3,543 people in the 4,806 Glens Falls Civic Center, which is down 600 from when the Phantoms were in the same arena and same league. However, the Flames believe, as many do, that the Glens Falls area is a great place for hockey….just not for a team in the Western Conference:
“Adirondack was excellent. It’s been a great setup for our development team, but the problem always is that we’re in Calgary and it’s in upstate New York,” (Flames GM Brad) Treliving said. “Location is No. 1. With this one, it’s just the ease of travel. What I mean by that is you’re in the Pacific time-zone and you’re in a climate that — touch wood — you expect you’ll have less travel/weather issues than you would on the East Coast.”
At least the Flames see the destination as a place to make a profit, which is why they are moving their ECHL team into Glens Falls under the same Thunder name that Stockton has had for the past decade. The AHL name is to be announced shortly, but you can bet it will have something to do with Flames or hot temperatures.
But can the Flames be trusted to stay in Stockton?? Odds are, yes, due to the fact they have company on the west coast with everyone else joining. Yet, with the nomadic ways the team has and the itch to move into a new market– who’s to say this is going to be a forever kind of thing. People can cite the deal the team made with the city of Stockton, but as with the case the Quad City Flames; those pacts can be broken at any time.
Yet, when you look at the history– is it the team that is really the problem or their choice of markets that’s a problem?? When you look at where they have gone since 2005 (when they didn’t have to share an affiliation), they have picked areas who have had a solid following for hockey on a lower level than the AHL, but it never translated over. Omaha has a strong Junior A and College following, Quad City had the Mallards of the UHL for the longest time, and Abbotsford had many BCHL ties to the city. Though, when the AHL came moving in– whether it was being unfamiliar with the league, the team, or hating the team because they have ties to a closer team (like Vancouver and Abbotsford); the Flames fizzled when all was said and done.
Despite all of that, however– this could be the thing that sticks for the Flames that they haven’t had in over a decade. They have a team that is not only close to their home base of operations, but also close to other teams; making the travel cost and time more bearable for all involved. Even with that, though, I will remain skeptical of the Flames being able to hunker down in an area for more than three years– especially if they haven’t made the mark they thought that they could.