The Vancouver Canucks have announced that they have agreed to an extension to keep the AHL’s Utica Comets as their primary minor-league affiliate for up to an additional six years. Ben Birnell of the Observer Dispatch adds that there is an option after two years. Jim Benning, General Manager of Canucks Sports and Entertainment, stated:
We are very pleased to continue our partnership with Utica. The Comets share our organization’s level of commitment and philosophy in player development, providing a strong environment for growth. We believe the culture in Utica, combined with the great fan support and atmosphere at games, will continue to be beneficial for the players in our system.”
The deal also means a more local affiliate will have to wait. There was hope in Vancouver that the organization might consider moving the team to Abbotsford, British Columbia, which would give them a much more nearby presence as opposed to having the team in Utica, New York, on the other side of the continent. Abbotsford has an empty arena and was a former affiliate for the Calgary Flames years ago before Calgary moved their affiliate to Stockton, California. However, the Canucks opted instead to stick with the current situation.
The Comets have been Vancouver’s AHL affiliate since the 2013-14 season when the team purchased the Peoria Rivermen and moved them to Utica. The two franchises have worked well together as they reached the Calder Cup finals in the 2014-15 season, and more importantly the team has been a financial success as they hold the AHL sellout streak record of 148 regular season and playoff games, which started on April 10, 2015. The Comets are a key piece to the Canucks franchise as Vancouver is loaded with solid prospects, including forwards Adam Gaudette, Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, defenseman Olli Juolevi and goaltender Thatcher Demko.