GLENS FALLS — The American Hockey League All-Star Classic will be held Sunday and Monday in the Utica area, but hockey could end up taking a back seat to bigger issues.
The AHL’s Board of Governors will meet during the all-star weekend, and the formation of a Pacific Division could be discussed and possibly approved. The decision would affect a number of AHL cities, including Glens Falls.
On Friday, WNYT-TV NewsChannel 13, The Post-Star’s media partner, cited a source saying an announcement will be made Monday that the AHL team will be leaving Glens Falls and will be replaced by an ECHL team, pending Sunday’s Board of Governors meeting.
The Calgary Flames are in the process of buying an ECHL team in Stockton, California, which would likely be the team moved to Glens Falls.
Adirondack Flames President Brian Petrovek declined comment on the subject Friday.
Rumors about a Pacific Division, driven by western NHL teams that want their AHL affiliates nearby, have been circulating for a few weeks. They gained traction after one team’s executive vice president and another’s owner confirmed bits of them. The Manchester Monarchs executive vice president told the Manchester Union-Herald he expected their parent club, the L.A. Kings, to swap its ECHL and AHL teams. Also, the owner of the Norfolk Admirals told the Virginian-Pilot he reached an agreement to sell his AHL team to Anaheim and expects it to be replaced by an ECHL team.
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The Mercury News reported San Jose will pull its team out of Worcester and move it to San Jose. Including Calgary and Edmonton, which already owns an ECHL team in Bakersfield, California, a five-team division would be created out west.
Both the ECHL and the AHL have reasons to want this decision made soon. Teams have already submitted dates for the respective schedules, a process that begins about now. Additionally, teams typically start their season ticket drives in about January or February.
Calgary has always made its preference for a western affiliate known. When Calgary introduced its affiliate to Glens Falls in May, general manager Brad Treliving said the organization would be very interested in a western AHL division at some point.
There are a few reasons for a western move. One is to have affiliates closer to parent clubs. A few teams have gotten into trouble because they weren’t able to call a player up in time. Then-Los Angeles prospect Brayden Schenn got his first NHL game as a juniors player because the team couldn’t get someone from Manchester, New Hampshire, in time.
Another reason is financial. The ECHL teams in Stockton, Bakersfield and Ontario average better attendance than their AHL counterparts in Glens Falls, Oklahoma City and Manchester. Stockton averages 4,131 fans a night, compared to Adirondack’s 3,461.
The theory is the Pacific Division teams would almost exclusively play each other and not travel out of California often, thus avoiding travel costs and nights on the road that hinder player development.
Follow Diana C. Nearhos’s blog at poststar.com/flames and on Twitter @dianacnearhos.