The Abbotsford Centre has the ability to host AHL level games if the Vancouver Canucks or any other NHL team chose to move its affiliate to the arena. (File photo)

The Abbotsford Centre has the ability to host AHL level games if the Vancouver Canucks or any other NHL team chose to move its affiliate to the arena. (File photo)

Abbotsford Centre ready for AHL if right opportunity presents itself

Building recently upgraded glass and boards, schedule would allow for AHL tenant

Over the past week several dominoes in the American Hockey League have fallen, which potentially opens up the opportunity for the Abbotsford Centre to once again host a team.

Saturday saw reports from Binghamton, N.Y. that the New Jersey Devils told representatives of the AHL club in that city that they will be relocating in the fall.

Combine that with news out of Utica, N.Y. that management of the Comets, who are affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks, registered “Utica Devils” as a trademark with the U.S. government’s Trademark and Patent Office earlier this month and it seems some sort of change is imminent.

The changes could signal the end of the Canucks in Utica and leave them tasked with finding a new affiliate location for the 2021-22 season. The Canucks and Comets current deal does feature an opt-out clause after this season.

Local speculation began heating up over the weekend, with Hockey Night in Canada’s Chris Johnston stating that he had heard that Canucks management were looking to move an affiliate closer to Vancouver. The Province also posted articles discussing the potential of the Canucks new home, listing Abbotsford as one of the possibilities.

The Abbotsford Centre previously hosted the Abbotsford Heat, the Calgary Flames AHL club, for five seasons. The club departed Abbotsford after the 2013-14 season. The AHL now has a Pacific Division with four teams in California and teams in Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. The Abbotsford International Airport does offer direct flights to both San Diego and Las Vegas, both of which host teams nearby.

Rick Comeau, the general manager of the Abbotsford Centre, said he believes the building is AHL-ready. Several upgrades had to be made to the boards and glass of the facility prior to the Canucks exhibition game at the building back on Sept. 23, 2019.

RELATED: Vancouver Canucks impress in win at Abbotsford Centre

“That was one of the things we did most recently to get up to NHL standards,” he said. “The venue was ultimately built for an AHL team, so as far as dressing rooms and those kind of amenities we are pretty much ready to go with that. Any sort of additional renovations we might have to do would be on a minor scale.”

Online chatter has seen the Pacific Coliseum brought up as one potential landing spot for a Canucks AHL team, but Comeau noted the Abbotsford Centre appears to be more ready.

“It would probably need millions of dollars in renovations and I think they might need a new scoreboard,” he said. “Our scoreboard was top of the line when it was put in 10 years ago and I’m sure it’s still fine for an AHL team. I’m not sure we would need any of those kinds of renovations that might be necessary with other buildings.”

Comeau added that the arena’s refrigeration plant is also in great condition and is built for a high-quality ice surface. The Abbotsford Centre hosts adult, women’s and minor hockey and is also the home of the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds U18, U16 and U15 AAA teams.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming large in B.C., the schedule ahead for the Abbotsford Centre is still uncertain, but Comeau said it’s likely that the building would have the flexibility to host an AHL team this fall.

However, he said that securing a major tenant for the building isn’t urgent. Comeau noted the Abbotsford Centre was extremely busy and successful in 2019 thanks to concerts and other events. Having a reliable tenant would provide some stability, but the market for events when the pandemic cools down could be ravenous.

“The facility has been doing very well the last five years without an AHL team because we can book in so many concerts and other types of events,” he said. “The economic impact we’re providing for the community has been huge. Having a tenant we may lose a few concerts, which may provide us more general revenue than one hockey game.”

Comeau said he’d like to see a professional team land in Abbotsford, but it has to make sense.

“There’s a bit of a misconception out there that the facility is not successful because it doesn’t have some type of tenant hockey team,” he said. “But we’ve been very successful. I think the city is in a great position right now to look at the opportunities presented to them and to know that if we don’t have a team — we’re fine. With the growing population base in the Fraser Valley we have more and more people demanding entertainment. I’m a hockey fan but it has to be the right team and the right deal. I think the city knows they don’t have to jump into any deal just to get a team here.”

Franchise relocations in the AHL require approval from the league’s board of governors, which have met in May in years past.

RELATED: Abbotsford Centre aims to rise from the ashes of 2020

abbotsfordCanuckshockeyNHLvancouver canucks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Health held a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Surrey, which would be in what the BCCDC refers to as the Panorama community, on Friday, May 7, 2021. Roughly 400 people pre-registered to get their vaccine the week before. (Photo: Lauren Collins
Surrey communities recording more COVID-19 cases also seeing lower vaccination rates

Those same communities were highlighted in the SPEAK survey, which highlighted disparities in the city

Twenty-nine staff members at Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd. in Newton have tested positive for the virus, according to an information bulletin from Fraser Health Saturday (May 8). The health authority issued a 10-day closure order, effective May 7. (Image: Google Maps)
29 staff test positive for COVID-19 at Surrey poultry processing plant

Meantime, outbreak over at Surrey Memorial Hospital

The College of Massage Therapists of B.C. says Van (William) Dinh, a registered massage therapist in Surrey and Langley, has had his licence suspended while an inquiry committee panel investigates allegations of sexual misconduct. (Unsplash photo)
Surrey massage therapist suspended amid sexual misconduct investigation

CMTBC received complaint Van (William) Dinh allegedly exposed ‘sensitive areas of the patient’s body’

Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil Friday evening (May 7) to remember 29-year-old corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, who was killed in last weekend’s brazen daylight shooting outside North Delta’s Scottsdale Centre mall. (James Smith photo)
Hundreds gather to remember victim of North Delta shooting

Corrections officer Bikramdeep Randhawa, 29, was killed in what police say was a targeted incident

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
Surrey woman a face of World Ovarian Cancer Day campaign in London, New York

‘It’s so important we find better treatments,’ Catherine Eiswerth says

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Vancouver Giants earned a 6-2 victory over the visiting Kelowna Rockets Friday night, May 7, in Kamloops (Allen Douglas/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants down Kelowna Rockets 6-2

Two short-handed goals for Langley-based team

Most Read