Baby Flames move to B.C.

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

The Calgary Flames farm team is on the move yet again.

This time, right into the heart of Vancouver Canucks territory.

The Flames received approval from the AHL yesterday to relocate their minor league affiliate to Abbotsford, B.C., some 70 km west of Vancouver, and home to one of their biggest rivals.

"I think they'll cheer like mad for the Canucks and also for their home team in the American League," said Flames president Ken King.

The team leaves Moline, Ill., after two seasons as the Quad City Flames. Calgary's top affiliate also spent two seasons in Omaha, Neb.

King, Flames GM Darryl Sutter and representatives of the Abbotsford ownership group made presentations to the AHL's board of governors in Chicago, and received a yes vote to move the team in time for the 2009-10 season.

With a brand new, 7,000-seat building to move into and a community rich in hockey tradition, Abbotsford is a good location for the currently unnamed minor league team.

However, working against the bid was the proximity to the other 29 AHL teams. The closest club is Winnipeg, so the Abbotsford squad will have to offset travel costs for other teams. Still, King said he was confident the move would be approved.

"Apparently lots of other people were worried about it," he said. "We were never over-confident about it.

"We presented a logical, reasonable case that looked at it objectively. (We) felt it should have been well-received and apparently it was."

The franchise is holding a "name the team" contest on its website (www.fraservalleyahl.com).

The Flames and a local ownership group have signed a 10-year agreement, which could give the club a solid foundation after a vagabond existence since it was based in Saint John, NB, for 10 seasons.

"One of the most critical aspects of it was the proximity, and also the continuity," King said.

Having finally closed the book on that chapter of the team's history, King said now comes the task of building a brand in Abbotsford.

"All we've done is the right to do a great deal of work," he said. "The real heavy lifting starts now. But the good news is we've got a great market with some great partners, and an opportunity to make it work.

"This is just the starting, and -- as I said -- the real work starts now.

"We feel comfortable the lessons learned in other places were, in fact, learned. We can spend our time now developing hockey players instead of trying to figure out where to put them."


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