DETROIT -- The Calgary Flames will formally apply to move their AHL team to Abbotsford in the coming days, confirmed president Ken King yesterday.
The Flames released Quad-Cities Sport Ventures group from the final three years of its affiliation contract between the clubs after two financially rough seasons in Moline, Ill., for the Quad City Flames.
King said "Abbotsford is the "most compelling opportunity. We're going to pursue that opportunity."
According to the Quad-City Times, the local group involved with the Flames lost more than US$4 million.
This season, the AHL squad has averaged just 2,876 fans through 31 of 40 home games, which ranks 28th in the league, and down from last season's average of 3,523.
The number to break even is 4,000.
King, stipulating the importance of having a full-time farm team, said the Flames had to be pro-active in relocating. A 7,000-seat arena is nearing completion in Abbotsford.
"What's really important is to have a solid place to develop our players," King said. "The American Hockey League is a development league and ... we have a lot of critical and key prospects in our system, and we need to have a great home for them, too, to prepare for the NHL."
However, a move to the British Columbia city of 140,000 located southeast of Vancouver is not a slam dunk. The closest AHL team would be Winnipeg, roughly a 24-hour bus ride, and member clubs -- especially in the Eastern U.S. -- will have to support the move, which may be difficult because of the travel and costs that would be involved. The Abbotsford team would likely have to subsidize travel costs.
"I don't know if I would term it as resistance, but, because of the geography, they're going to need to be convinced," King said. "I would not classify it as a risky move, but it's a bold move and I think it's a smart move.
The move may also impact the WHL's Chilliwack Bruins, whose co-owners include Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and New York Rangers GM Glen Sather. The Flames own the WHL's Calgary Hitmen.
"As members of Western Hockey League, we're completely certain that some team would be in Abbotsford," King said. "They built a $70-million building. They've been pounding the pavement for years trying to secure a team, so we thought it might be best to have somebody people know and trust in that market."