MAJOR NEWS: Kings Preparing To Move Top Prospects To SoCal

Manchester Monarchs
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In a story that MayorsManor has been chasing for the better part of two years, it appears the dominos are about to start falling in a move that should drastically change the landscape of developing pro hockey players for several NHL teams.

Through multiple league sources connected to the teams involved, we’ve confirmed that five to six NHL teams are prepared to move their top minor league prospects to a new AHL division based in Western U.S. markets.

The reason for this is actually quite simple; it just isn’t practical – or at least not ideal- to have the heart of an NHL franchise operating in one time zone, while their top development team is several time zones away.

At one point, as many as eight teams were involved in the discussions, including Anaheim, Los Angeles, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Phoenix, San Jose, and Vancouver.

Regular conference calls and meetings have been taking place regarding this idea for a few years now and after vetting several different proposals – including the possibility of those teams starting their own league – it is now believed the AHL is on board with the idea.

From what we’ve learned recently, the new division will begin play in October 2015, as part of the AHL’s 2015-16 season.

The Coyotes, Ducks, Kings, and Sharks, are on board. As for the other one or two teams still in the mix, it is believed one of the Western Canadian teams’ interest in the project may have cooled.

This is only speculation, but we would assume that team is the Vancouver Canucks. Their current AHL affiliate is located in Utica, N.Y. and Canucks Sports Entertainment owns the team. Although a move West would seem preferable, they just began play there this year, so perhaps there are some contractual agreements in place for the next few seasons. Edmonton purchased their ECHL affiliate in Bakersfield last year and Calgary owns their AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat (who are said to be moving next season anyway). Thus, they would most likely be part of the initial group of teams in 2015-16.

Specific to the Kings, they would move their current AHL franchise from Manchester, N.H. to Ontario, replacing their ECHL affiliate currently located there (the Ontario Reign). Manchester has proven to be a valuable AHL market and the expectation is another team would move in there rather quickly.

Meanwhile the Ontario market has been outstanding and extremely receptive to hockey since the team began play in the 2008-09 season, when they had the second highest average attendance in the league. Since then, they’ve led the league four of the last five seasons. This year, with an average attendance of 8,158, they will record the highest ECHL attendance average since 1998-99. Even more incredible, this season they have the second highest average attendance in all of minor league hockey, second only to the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

Thus, the Kings have to be confident this change will pay off by not only having their top prospects closer to home, but also at the box office.

When asked for official comment for this story, Kings Vice President, Communications and Broadcasting, Mike Altieri, would only say that “We remain interested in finding an opportunity to bring our affiliates closer to Los Angeles, but at this time nothing is imminent.”

As for where the Ducks, Sharks, and other teams may play – and again, this is only speculation – Salt Lake City has had IHL and AHL teams in the past, San Diego has a long history with minor league hockey, and Portland has proven to be a phenomenal market for junior hockey. On the flip side, Sacramento isn’t very likely and San Francisco couldn’t even support an ECHL team this season.

The Sharks own their AHL affiliate, currently playing in Worcester, Mass., while the Ducks do not own either their AHL (Norfolk Admirals in Virginia) or ECHL affiliates.

For those hoping the Long Beach Arena could play a part in this, while nobody has indicated it’s off the table, you would have to believe a fourth hockey team in the Southern California market may just be too many.

When this move happens, look for the Kings to possibly sign an affiliate agreement with another ECHL team. However, given how few players they’ve actually sent to Ontario over the last five seasons that may just be handled on an as-needed basis when the situation arises.

Barring a last minute change, the AHL and the teams involved are most likely going to announce their official plans later this summer. If the AHL ultimately doesn’t end up approving the plan, indications are the group of teams are prepared to go at it alone, as they feel this is a vital move and something that needs to take place.

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Comments

  1. This is amazing scoop! I know the Monarchs have a loyal following in Manchester, so I feel bad for those fans, but this just makes so much sense for the Kings.

  2. The Canucks would be out on this, they’ve already said publically that they’re staying Utica for the tenure of the deal (6 years) and the Canucks sold their controlling rights to the group that brought the team in.

  3. im so going to see jonny brod in ontario

  4. Would love to see minor league hockey return to Fresno. I miss the Falcons

  5. Looks like I might be canceling my season tix for next year now……kings don’t give a crap about Manchester anyways and it shows year after year

    • This year the Monarchs have a two year season ticket plan, and are planning on being gone. WTF! I will stop payments on my season tickets.

  6. It’s never made any sense to me that so many Western NHL franchises have had their top affiliates in the far Northeast. It’s about time they locate their farm teams much closer to home. The Dallas Stars have their top club in Austin, just a three hour drive (45 minute flight) away. It’s been a near perfect set-up for them. Good to see some other teams finally getting with the program.

  7. Tyler Briand says:

    The kings have never given a crap about Manchester. good riddance, give us a team in Manchester where ownership cares about their fans. We lose benefits year in and year out and what are we rewarded with? A top regular season team and a first round exit.

  8. Adrianne says:

    It will take some doing for it to happen, especially with that many teams involved. My husband and I have been calling “this” for a couple of years now. . .and with the offering/pushing of a two-year renewal on season tickets last year, made our call more convincing. Many of these teams will go at least one more year/season (2014-2015) and then be gone starting with the 2015-2016 season. Hoping hockey will stay in Manchester – and Hamilton coming here is a strong contender. . . .

  9. In the Net says:

    As a Reign season tickef holder I’ve been saying for years the Kings could store some players here.And for the thought that the Kings don’t care about the Monarchs, you gotta remember these are developmental feeder leagues. Who would want to hold a young player back from promotion to the bigs?

  10. Bring Kings ALL to Ontario and I’ll re up my season tix. Got tired of never seeing our prospects.

  11. RobbyJr04 says:

    If Colorado gets on board and moves team back home, I imagine #Lumbus moves their affiliate to Cleveland (Lake Erie)…

    Great scoop! I look forward to updates…

  12. HeHughes376 says:

    Abbotsford Heat are indeed leaving town so the timing of this news sucks for us fans. A western divison in the AHL is something we’ve been waiting to see happen and that it should seem more likely just as our team agrees to terminate the contract with the City (netting another $5.5mill of taxpayers money in the process) and move elsewhere is really frustrating.

    That said, any team, other than the canucks affiliate, considering this as a posible location would have to do some serious marketing to convince the local Canuck fanbase and media (esp TV stations) that it’s OK to support the AHL affiliate of an NHL rival.

    • I agree with you Helen! Unfortunately our local mayor and council are unaware of this possibility even if we have been hearing rumours for a while…or are they hoping for votes in the upcoming elections because they need to appear that they’re for the taxpayer!!
      There are many of us who will gladly travel elsewhere to support AHL in another community while our building sits empty.

  13. hopesfail says:

    Any chance of Vegas? I know the Wranglers struggled the last couple years to even stay afloat, but maybe a higher level of competition could help? How long of a long shot?

    • John Hoven says:

      Just opinion here, but I can’t see Vegas being part of the initial group of teams for one key reason – they don’t have a building. Just look at where the Wranglers are playing next season. Shows you there aren’t many options in town at the moment. Until that changes, you would need Mandalay Bay or MGM to get involved with the use of their two arenas. And there’s no way they are giving up concert and UFC revenue on Saturday nights (which bring in tons of tourists and big time gamblers) for AHL hockey.

      • Yeah but that is already happening. MGM is building the major hockey arena across the street because the Garden Arena is just to small. It’s scheduled for something like a 2016-2017 opening?

        • John Hoven says:

          Yes, AEG – the parent company of the Kings – and MGM are building a new 20k seat arena in Vegas. It would be more likely an NHL team eventually goes in there before an AHL team. Again, major arenas in a town like Vegas aren’t going to want to give up prime weekend dates for minor league hockey.

          • The new arena being built will not be for anything more than concerts. They’re not planning on trying to lure a NHL or NBA team there. I have extremely good authority on that.

      • I disagree with you about Vegas. The Wranglers have a dedicated fanbase and are willing to watch the team wherever they play in the area. The only reason why they got kicked out of their soon-to-be former building is because the building owners shouldn’t be allowed to run a lemonade stand, let alone a casino corporation.

  14. regulate says:

    Well I am stoked at the possibility of this happening. I live just 5 miles from the Citizen’s Bank Arena, and I would buy season tickets for sure. I would feel sorry for the Manchester fans that have developed into Kings fans. I sure that would sting. No doubt they would get another franchise.

    The reality is an AHL franchise here would easy draw 9-10,000 in attendance. One big drawback would be the distance the teams would have to travel.

  15. It was so great when the Ice Dogs were in the IHL. Awesome hockey and a good mix of prospects and old pros. This will be a good move for hockey in this area and makes sense for the Kings too.

    • Couldn’t agree more. The Ice Dog’s were awesome. There arena is a good venue to watch hockey. The stadium is easy to get into and out of. I remember as a kid meeting Dave Taylor at an Ice Dog’s game. Sounds like they are favoring Ontario but LB would be epic.

  16. The Western Conference of the ECHL has good fanbases with attendance that rivals most AHL teams. The only one that doesn’t didn’t make it to the end of the season. With all the Western Conference NHL teams buying their ECHL affiliates, it seems to me it will be a quick breakaway of the Western Conference of the ECHL that will just be a second AAA league, similar to baseball, and the remaining AHL teams that lose their NHL affiliation will drop to ECHL.

  17. How I could see it working for expansion of NHL:

    West:
    Ontario Monarchs (Kings)
    Seattle Sharks (Sharks)
    Utah Grizzly (Coyotes)
    San Deigo Ducks (Ducks)
    Abbotsford Heat (Flames) {or wherever they move}
    Texas Stars (Stars)
    San Antonio Rampage (Panthers/Avalanche Trade)
    Oklahoma City Barons (Oilers)

    Midwest:
    Iowa Wild (Wild)
    Rockford Icehogs (Blackhawks)
    Chicago Wolves (Blues)
    Milwaukee Admirals (Predators)
    Grand Rapids Griffins (Red Wings)
    Lake Erie Monsters (Avalanche/Expansion Team #1)
    Hamilton Bulldogs (Canadians)
    Toronto Marlies (Leafs)

    East:
    Rochester Americans (Sabres)
    Syracuse Crunch (Lightning)
    Utica Comets (Canucks)
    Binghamton Senators (Senators)
    Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Penguins)
    Hershey Bears (Capitals)
    Norfolk Admirals (Expansion Team #1/Panthers trade)
    Charlotte Checkers (Hurricanes)

    North:
    Adirondack Phantoms (Flyers)
    Albany Devils (Devils)
    Springfield Falcons (Blue Jackets)
    Hartford Wolf Pack (Rangers)
    Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Islanders)
    Providence Bruins (Bruins)
    St. John’s IceCaps (Jets)
    Manchester (Expansion Team #2)

    I’d like to see the Panthers take over the Norfolk AHL team and the Avalanche take over San Antonio AHL team. Then give Lake Erie and Manchester to the 2 expansion teams in the NHL.

    Quebec would get Manchester
    Seattle(or wherever) would get Lake Erie

    • A Canadians affiliate in Manchester? Not a good idea… Many Manchester fans are also Bruins fans.

  18. David Andrews (President and CEO) of the AHL was in San Antonio last night talking with Rampage season ticket holders. The question came up about a balanced schedule because they are sick of seeing the Texas Stars and OCK Barons 12 times a season. Mr. Andrews explained why that was, then said there are talks about bring teams to the west coast to be closer to their NHL affiliate (he did not mention team names specifically). He said talks began a few yeas back but the AHL wasn’t in a place to relocate teams. Now there is a driving force to do so and the AHL is taking a serious look at this, mentioned it’s closer than we think. He said this is still 2 to 3 years away but will help the Texas / OCK / Iowa teams. Abbotsford has not renewed their lease and as said above, looking to move to Glen Falls, NY (which will cause more problems for western teams vs balance schedule next season).

  19. This has been rumored for years. You would need four California/Southwest teams coupled with
    the two existing Texas AHL squads and perhaps Colorado to make a go of this. The one thing that would not work would be a four to six team inclusive western top tier hockey league. The charm of minor league hockey (NHL and ECHL) is that the leagues have teams in many areas of the country and the championship is a true national minor battle for supremacy. A non affiliated west coast smaller league would not be much different that the NBA D League and would lack a lot of the legitimacy that the two current minor hockey leagues have to offer.

  20. I have been a Manchester Monarchs fan for 13 seasons and season ticket holder…. this saddens me..

  21. what would this change mean for Reign saeson tickets holders and Reign fans and all the Reign gear purchased, I think having an AHL team would be great, any hockey is great to have local

  22. Seattle would be a great place for an AHL and would help us lead right into an NHL team.

  23. Logistically, I get it. Truly. However, there are tried and true loyal Monarch fans who have been getting the ‘shaft’ from the powers that be in LA for the past couple of years. While it’s been rumoured and not a shock that it was going to happen, it doesn’t help take the bite out. I can’t imagine myself jumping on the bandwagon for some NHL team that I don’t support just because their AHL affiliate comes to Manchester. Blech. Isn’t going to happen.. But let’s get our boys out of this first round of playoffs first! GO MONARCHS!

  24. Phoenix’s team could be Prescott Valley AZ rather than Utah. Tim’s Toyota Center only seats 5100 for hockey, but it’s a great, practically brand new building.

  25. AHLFlybyNight says:

    Well, the way the AHL operates – a city or arena should now know NEVER build to build anything economic around an AHL team.

    Manchester has a strong and loyal following, but the Kings are willing to pull the plug and say “good luck Manchester, it’s been real, but WE are moving on. Good luck with finding an affiliate.”

    Not good to deal with AHL teams. This sends a putrid message.

  26. Alfred says:

    While having a team in close proximity is ideal its not always best. You want to move to a market that will draw a fan base and grow the overall product and not take away from what you already have. Being a Ducks fan I think San Diego would be a great area. San Diego is large enough to sustain a team and they are located in an area where rooting for Ducks makes sense. San Diego is too far to take away Ducks fans from going to AHL games instead of NHL games. You move a team a couple states away in Utah and it will be unlikely those fans will convert to fans of the NHL parent team. What Kings did was smart as now any future potential Ducks fans in the IE will rather root for the team the local product is affliated with. Either way get more hockey is California is okay with me.

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