AHL president says western movement, Pacific Division “probably will happen”

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AHL president David Andrews before the Texas Stars-Abbotsford Heat game at the Cedar Park Center on Saturday. (Photo by Christina Shapiro)
AHL president David Andrews before the Texas Stars-Abbotsford Heat game at the Cedar Park Center on Saturday. (Photo by Christina Shapiro)

CEDAR PARK – The American Hockey League’s potential Pacific Division may indeed be on its way, league president David Andrews said Saturday.

Multiple reports have surfaced in the past couple weeks, including an initial report by Fox Sports Arizona on April 10, stating five to eight NHL teams were interested in moving their AHL affiliation west.

Andrews commented on those reports when he met with the media during the first period of the Texas Stars-Abbotsford Heat game Saturday.

“There is a fair amount of truth behind it. At the same time now there is a lot of conjecture that isn’t accurate,” Andrews said. “We have been involved in a process over the last two years or so. Starting with eight of the National Hockey League teams that are Western-based and moving down to about five of them that are active right now who are looking to get closer to the Pacific Coast at some point.

“Recently it’s heated up again and we’ve been looking at what the process will be and how it might take place and what the timelines might be. But, we still haven’t identified markets, neither have they, on where they would like to place teams on the West Coast … while we’re closer to it happening, we’re not sure when it would happen, or to tell you the truth, if it would happen.

“There are still a number of hurdles … we’re not going to create more American Hockey League franchises. So to relocate five of them at one time, or more than five perhaps, is a very significant challenge.”

Andrews didn’t name specific teams Saturday. But it’s been reported that the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks could be part of the discussion.

“We’re supportive of that and willing to assist those West Coast teams in achieving their objectives,” Andrews said. “It’s going to be a challenging process to get it done. Overtime I think it probably will happen.”

Right now, the AHL is Northeast-dominated geographic league, with 21 of 30 teams in the Eastern Time zone.

After Abbotsford — which will move at the end of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs – the San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars, and Oklahoma City Barons are the AHL’s western-most outposts.

Heat future still unknown

Andrews said the Heat “where destined to have a hard time” as a Flames affiliate in a Canucks market, and the future of the franchise is still unknown.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Andrews said. “We’ve got some work to do over the next little while with the Calgary Flames to understand what their objectives are and what they would like to accomplish over the next couple of years.”

It’s been rumored Abbotsford could move its team to Glen Falls, NY and take the place of the Adirondack Phantoms – which are moving to Allentown, PA next season.

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