Comets NHL Affiliate Vancouver Canucks Will Leave Utica
The Vancouver Canucks have made it official. They will end their partnership with the Utica Comets at the end of this season and will be moving their American Hockey League franchise to Abbotsford, British Columbia.
"With momentum starting to build, we are pleased to confirm our goal to bring our AHL franchise and Canucks prospects home to the City of Abbotsford," said Francesco Aquilini, Chairman, Canucks Sports & Entertainment. "The move would bring significant opportunities for both our team and the community and it would begin a new chapter, bringing Canucks hockey to even more fans throughout the Lower Mainland."
The Canucks partnered with Rob Esche and the Comets 8 years ago with what has turned out to be an incredibly successful relaunch of AHL hockey in Utica. In 2018, the Comets set the league record for sold out games at 138, and continued the active streak right up until the pandemic restricted fans inside the Adirondack Bank Center.
"We are extremely grateful for the outstanding partnership and working relationship we've had with Robert Esche and the entire Utica Comets family," continued Aquilini. "Since 2013, we have worked closely to create a first-class hockey environment for our players and Utica's great fans. Utica has one of the best, most energetic hockey environments in North America. We wish Robert, his staff and the incredible Comets fans nothing but success in the future."
The move would leave Utica without an NHL affiliation, however rumors have been swirling over the last month that the New Jersey Devils have been considering a return to Utica. Utica was the home to the Devils franchise from 1987 to 1993. On April 17, WBNG TV reported the franchise would be relocating from Binghamton at the end of this season, with no announcement on a new home, effectively leaving Binghamton without a team. In the meantime, a reporter WBNG discovered that Rob Esche had registered a trademark for Utica Devils, as well as the website domain UticaDevils.com. Neither Esche nor the Devils front office would comment on any change in affiliation. The latest news that Vancouver is moving its franchise from Utica to Abbotsford would effectively leave Utica without a team for the 2021-22 season.
Utica Comets President Rob Esche will be a guest on WIBX's Keeler in the Morning Show Wednesday at 7:40AM.