The Calgary Flames have moved their American Hockey League club to California as a part of the AHL’s west coast wave, and they will be changing the name of the franchise. Their former AHL team, the Adirondack Flames, will keep their same name as they are relegated to an ECHL franchise. The new AHL team will be in Stockton.
Stockton while in the ECHL was known as the Stockton Thunder, but as they upgrade their franchise status they will be known as the Stockton Heat.
“Calgary wanted to rebrand the team for a couple of reasons,” team president Dave Piecuch said in the AHL’s press release. “First, they wanted the fans to have no confusion that this is a new team at a higher level. They were also eager for a fresh start for hockey in the City of Stockton under a new banner.”
The team elected to have fans vote on and choose the team name, and the Heat won out of a group of five finalists. The name Heat still stays in tune with the Flames brand as well and will keep the same colors.
“The Flames were excited to open the name the team contest to the fans so that they could have their voices heard,” Piecuch said in the same press release. “There were close to 10,000 entries in the contest. Of the seven most popular entries, five of them were Flames-related, and those became the five finalists. The name Heat, which was one of the most-entered names, was chosen out of the five finalists because the Central Valley is certainly known for its heat and it kept the name weather related, something that California is known for across the world.”
Stockton will play in the AHL’s California division that will also include San Jose, San Diego, Bakersfield, and Ontario.
The Flames ECHL team will be in Adirondack, New York, the home of formerly their AHL club. The ECHL is moving closer to its east coast roots with adding a new York team to their club roster while the AHL is looking for a more national approach with their west coast teams.
There has been speculation that Arizona, Vancouver, and Colorado will also move their minor league franchises to this new division.
Hockey has been in Stockton, California since 2004 when the Thunder moved to Stockton after 14 years of being the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL, back then the East Coast Hockey League.