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Five team California AHL division in works?

AHLWith word leaking about an AHL reconfiguration that will see multiple teams shifting to the western United States, it looks like we could see a five team California AHL division.

We’ve already reported on the possible move of the Norfolk Admirals to San Diego and the transfer of Oklahoma City Barons to Bakersfield, accompanied by a move of the ECHL’s Condors back to Norfolk. The Anaheim Ducks are said to be buying the Admirals for the move.

Two teams, however, aren’t enough. What’s now being discussed: a five-team, all-California AHL division with teams potentially in Ontario, Fresno and Stockton in addition to San Diego and Bakersfield. We have newer arenas in Ontario and Stockton, with Selland Arena adequate for pro hockey in Fresno.

There is some history to suggest a five team California AHL division could work: the IHL was successful on the West Coast, specifically in San Diego, where the Gulls were a major draw. And in a large market where there’s no current NHL and NBA teams, an AHL team would have the wintertime market to itself. From the Union-Tribune:

At the time, four decades ago, official capacity at the San Diego Sports Arena was set at 13,363. That particular Saturday night, more than 14,000 tickets were sold to a hockey game, an impressive fact that the San Diego Gulls proudly shared on the public-address system.

“The fire marshal went berserk,” said Bruce Binkowski, the front-office employee who announced the attendance. “The next time we sold more than 14,000 seats, we only announced 13,363.”

The point is, there was a “next time.” The Gulls — despite playing in a much smaller city than it is today, a city that already had NFL and major league baseball teams, a sun-splashed beach town where the perfect climate screamed for people to stay outdoors and enjoy the warmth — often had folks flocking indoors to watch the best minor-league ice hockey available.

There are a lot of folks talking about this in hockey circles; it would be surprising if some sort of westward AHL realignment didn’t happen.

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