Why A Return to Abbotsford Would Make Sense…for Seattle’s AHL Affiliate
By Merrick Parnell
@Merk8989 on Twitter
An American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate is a major component to any of the existing teams in the National Hockey League (NHL) teams. The AHL serves as hockey’s “AAA” farm system and it’s often a player’s last stop before the NHL. The AHL as a whole is crucial for the team’s development and success and allows the parent club to extend their fan base to another area via their farm team.
Soon, the as-yet-unnamed Seattle NHL franchise will need to address the location of their AHL affiliate team. The AHL will most likely expand to accommodate another NHL Team just as it did for Vegas recently, but the question of “where will this team be located?” remains.
Ideally, the AHL club would be located in the Pacific Northwest region. Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington have been thrown into the mix, as they should be, but I think Abbotsford, B.C would also serve as a great location, and here’s why.
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada is about three hours North of Seattle in the Fraser Valley. In 2009, the Abbotsford Events Centre, a sparkling new and modern arena, opened. The arena would be a venue for premier entertainment and the home of the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, the affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. The Heat would play until 2014 before being relocated to Glen Falls, New York to be the Adirondack Flames.
Despite the struggles that lead to relocation for the Heat, I am optimistic that an AHL Seattle Affiliate could work in Abbotsford due to several factors.
Proximity to the “Parent Club”
As mentioned, Seattle is just three hours away, down the I-5, in the same Geographic area. The Abbotsford AHL team could draw from the Seattle Fanbase in Northern Washington, as well as parts of the Lower Mainland Of British Columbia (originally the Heat had trouble with this due to representing the Calgary Flames, as they found that the fan base was very pro-Vancouver Canucks, a longtime Flames rival). Bellingham, WA is the largest northern Washington City, and the surrounding area (and rabid hockey community) could quickly make the quick and easy jaunt into the Fraser Valley.
Part of the Heat’s troubles in Abbotsford was that they were the most Western AHL team. Their closest competition was in Oklahoma City. However, since then, the AHL now has a Pacific Division made up of groups in, California, Arizona, and Colorado.
The Arena could work well for AHL hockey again, plus an existing arena is more attractive than having to build one. It can seat 7,000+ fans, and with it being relatively new, it has a lot of modern amenities and services. The location of the arena could also be beneficial.
Demographics and Location
Abbotsford has a population of just over 141,000 which gives them the community to support an AHL team. Plus the surrounding Fraser Valley area could contribute even more. Also, Abbotsford is about an hour away from Vancouver. However, traffic can also make that journey a lot longer. Plus, going to Vancouver for games is expensive once you add the food, gas and parking costs.
Fans in the Fraser Valley would not have to make the long trip to the city to watch some high-level hockey, and fans in the area have supported a similar move once before when the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants moved from Vancouver to Langley to serve Valley fans.
Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley provides an excellent opportunity for a Seattle AHL Affiliate team. The location, population and nearly brand new arena all are attractive factors and ones that should be considered by NHL Seattle for their farm team.
The Oakville Group Narrows Down Names for Seattle’s NHL Team
The Oakville Group has released 13 potential names for the new Seattle NHL team. Here is the list:
NHL Seattle Rules Out Eastside for Practice Facility
NHL Seattle’s CEO Tod Leiweke stated in a recent interview with King5.com that the practice facility for the future Seattle NHL club will not be on the Eastside (The Eastside is the area east of Lake Washington), Unlike the Seattle Seahawks who have had their practice facility in Renton since 2008 and previously in Kirkland. However, NHL Seattle has selected a few other sites. Leiweke went on to say that he hopes the facility helps grow the game in the area by facilitating community hockey programs.
You can listen to the full interview here: https://www.king5.com/article/sports/nhl-seattle-ceo-tod-leiweke-on-deadlines-nicknames-colors/281-573000387
Photo: KOMO News
Dave Tippett Not Ruling Out Becoming Seattle’s First NHL Head Coach
Dave Tippett was hired in June by the Oakville Group to serve as a senior hockey adviser for the group that is trying to bring a National Hockey League (NHL) team to Seattle. However, could Tippet become Seattle’s first NHL coach? Tippett has a solid and experienced resume in the game of Pro Hockey after head coaching 1,000 games in the NHL with the Dallas Stars and the Arizona Coyotes and previously served as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings. Before his NHL coaching career, he spent time in the International Hockey League with the Houston Aeros.
Prior to coaching, Tippett played in the NHL from 1984-1994 for the Hartford Whalers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers before leaving to the Houston Aeros to become a player-coach.
Recently, on June 18, Tippett was on TSN 1040 AM Vancouver and was asked if he might be interested in becoming Seattle’s first head coach. He replied by saying: “Tod Leiweke [NHL Seattle Team President] and I have talked about it, and I am not going to take it off the table.” Tippett did follow that statement up with a remark that he’s trying to advise and help get the infrastructure up first, but would consider being Seattle’s Head Coach once the details were in place. Tippett’s experience in the NHL is valuable and will go a long way in assisting Seattle in securing an NHL franchise. It is exciting to think about, and Tippett could be the man for the job of head coach.
To listen to the full interview with TSN 1040 Vancouver click the link below: