May 6: The AHL Board of Governors has approved the relocations to Abbotsford and Utica, from Utica and Binghamton respectively. The new divisional alignment will be announced at a later date, but Vancouver will be using Abbotsford and New Jersey using Utica for the 2021-22 season.
In addition, Utica and New Jersey have announced a new ten-year affiliation agreement. The organization will remain the Utica Comets, but jersey designs and colors will be revealed later in the year.
May 4: Amidst speculation that their current AHL affiliate in Utica will become New Jersey’s affiliate next season, Vancouver has found a new home for their prospects. The Canucks announced today that they will move their AHL squad to Abbotsford for next year, pending approval from the AHL’s Board of Governors on Thursday. Team owner Francesco Aquilini released the following statement:
With momentum starting to build, we are pleased to confirm our goal to bring our AHL franchise and Canucks prospects home to the City of Abbotsford. The move would bring significant opportunities for both our team and the community and it would begin a new chapter, bringing Canucks hockey to even more fans throughout the Lower Mainland.
Vancouver intends to operate the team out of the Abbotsford Centre which hosted Calgary’s AHL team from 2009 through 2014 after previously playing in Moline, Illinois. Travel was a concern as they were the westernmost city in the league and eventually, Calgary opted to head to New York.
Interestingly enough, the Canucks are taking the opposite approach, leaving New York to go to Abbotsford. Clearly, the fact that they’ll be able to have their AHL prospects in the same province is certainly ideal from a development standpoint but travel shouldn’t be as significant of a concern now with there now being an entire Pacific Division. At first glance, it would seem likely that Abbotsford would join that group, making it an eight-team division for next season with Palm Springs set to join that group for 2022-23.