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AHL shifts east, with Abbotsford Heat moving to Glens Falls

The Abbotsford Heat are no more, as their lease was bought out by the City of Abbotsford and plans are underway to shift operations to the Glens Falls Civic Center.

The Calgary Flames own the Abbotsford Heat, which never took off as a tenant at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre in British Columbia: the team drew around 3,000 a game this season, the worst since the team began play in  the 2009-2010 season. Financially, the team may not have suffered: under a sweet lease, the team losses were covered by the city. That ended up being C$7.2-million since the team’s arrival.

Cutting their losses, city officials negotiated a lease buyout, which cost another C$5.5 million in termination fees. The total cost to Abbotsford taxpayers to bring in AHL hockey: C$12.7 million. The lease termination allows the city to seek a new tenant. With teams in Alaska, Utah and Colorado, the ECHL would make some sense as a potential partner; we’re guessing some owner will want to look at putting a junior WHL team in Abbotsford as well.

In general, AHL hockey has never worked for teams in the west. The Abbotsford Heat was in the same division as Charlotte, Oklahoma City and two Texas teams. That’s a lot of travel.

It looks like the Abbotsford Heat will end up back east in Glens Falls, NY, where the Adirondack Phantoms played the past few seasons before a move to a new Allentown (Pa.) arena. Now, this isn’t the greatest of markets, either — the Phantoms drew almost 4,000 fans a game during the Phantoms’ lame-duck season, though attendance was more robust the season before — but city officials there have been pushing for a return of AHL hockey. The location will dramatically cut down on travel expenses.

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