The Vancouver Canucks announced a new two-year AHL affiliation agreement with the Chicago Wolves on Monday, snuffing hopeful speculation locally that their top prospects might be stationed in Abbotsford.
“We look forward to this new venture with the Chicago Wolves,” Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said in a press release. “The two organizations will work closely to ensure our goals are one and the same and continue to work on developing a strong relationship with our prospects.”
The Manitoba Moose had been the Canucks’ AHL affiliate since 2001, but with the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg, they were displaced.
The Moose are owned by True North Sports and Entertainment, the same group that owns the latest incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. The AHL franchise has been moved to St. John’s, Nfld., where it will serve as the Jets’ affiliate.
With the Canucks seeking an AHL dance partner, many local fans were hoping they might be able to work something out with the Calgary Flames, who own and run the hockey operations for the Abbotsford Heat.
The Canucks affiliation would have undoubtedly been a great fit in Abbotsford, given the NHL club’s massive popularity in the region. But the Flames are two years into a 10-year agreement to play out of the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
“Calgary has a long-term agreement with the City of Abbotsford and they’re comfortable with it and I don’t think they’re looking to move,” Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman told the Vancouver Sun last week.
The Heat’s supply fee agreement with arena operator Global Spectrum guarantees the hockey team a break-even budget of up to $5.7 million annually. The City of Abbotsford covered a shortfall of $450,637 in 2009-10, and the estimated deficit for 2010-11 will be in the $1.2 million range.
Abbotsford averaged 3,807 fans per game last season, 26th out of 30 AHL teams.