According to Pro Hockey Talk, it looks like the American Hockey League will have even more changes soon. The AHL has already moved away from Worcester, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Manchester, and Adirondack. Those teams are locating to California.
It was also announced last week that the Hamilton Bulldogs would move to St. John’s while the IceCaps will move to the MTS Centre in Winnipeg to play where their parent club the Winnipeg Jets play.
Even more is on the way with change in the minor league.
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First of all, it looks like the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes will switch affiliates. The Coyotes will move their affiliate away from Maine, the home of the Portland Pirates, in the farthest distanced affiliates in the league. That team will now be the affiliate of Florida while the San Antonio Rampage will become the minor league club for Arizona.
Until 2011, the Rampage were actually the Coyotes affiliate before they switched to Portland. There has been talk of the team returning to San Antonio for quite a while, but now it appears to be close to being official. The last time the Rampage were the affiliate for the Coyotes, the team struggled and only made the playoffs once in 2008.
One report indicated several weeks ago that the Coyotes wanted to move whatever affiliate they had to their state of Arizona, which means the Rampage could be on the move of the Coyotes could find a way to buy the club as well. They wouldn’t be able to relocate the team otherwise.
The Rampage are owned by the same ownership group as the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, so it seems unlikely that they’d sell the team anytime soon unless the Coyotes blew the Spurs away.
The Coyotes are one of just a few western conference teams moving their clubs; the after mentioned California clubs will belong to the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and Calgary Flames.
The Vancouver Canucks and Colorado Avalanche could be the next teams in line to locate their teams closer to the west coast. The Avalanche affiliate is currently in Erie, Pennsylvania, so they obviously could use relocation to be closer to their team. The Canucks affiliate is in Utica, New York, so they have a similar situation.
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals are expected to announce a renewed deal with their affiliate the Hershey Bears very soon.