Shaking some dust off the blog today. Things have been a bit quiet, understandably. And while I don’t see any official news coming in the very near future, there’s still plenty to catch up on.
Once this plague abates and the world begins getting back to normal, we’re going to see an expansion of hockey in a rather unexpected place—America’s Desert Southwest. It promises to heat up the traditionally Northeast-centric American Hockey League.
Golden Knights relocating AHL club
During the month of February, which now feels like ages ago, the Vegas Golden Knights made some significant moves to shake up the AHL.
On Feb. 6, they purchased the San Antonio Rampage and announced plans to relocate the team in 2020-21 to Henderson, Nevada where a new 6,000-seat arena is set to be built.
The following week, the Golden Knights announced AHL games would be played at Orleans Arena, the former home of the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, until completion of the new building in Henderson.
On Feb. 28, the AHL Board of Governors approved the deal. Two weeks later, the league suspended its season due to the spread of COVID-19. Have the Rampage played their final game in San Antonio? The team was not in playoff position when the season was put on hold. It remains to be seen if the league will complete its schedule when it’s safe to do so.
Either way, the Golden Knights are likely close to announcing the new branding for their AHL club. But with the world the way it is now, you have to wonder when will be the right time to make an announcement.
As for name speculation, when NHL teams purchase AHL teams, we tend to see a lot of brand synergy. It saves money on equipment, for one thing. I would expect nothing less from Vegas. Whatever the name and logo, I’d expect something familiar or at least with similar colors.
A half-dozen NHL teams share a name with their AHL club. Many more share some sort of thematic similarities in either name or color scheme. The Senators, Devils, Wild, Bruins, Stars, and Penguins, for example, are all names you’ll find in both leagues.
NHL Seattle brings AHL to Palm Springs
Speaking of new branding, we’re also likely to get the name and logo for Seattle’s desert-based AHL team in Palm Springs, California very soon—though not before we finally learn the identity of the NHL club. That’s another story.
Like Seattle, the Palm Springs team will begin play in 2021-22—more than year from now. But they’ll want to have their brand in place as soon as possible.
It’ll also be interesting to see how these new southwestern teams affect the AHL’s divisional alignment. The league formed its Pacific Division in 2015 when a handful of west coast NHL clubs relocated their AHL operations—all but Vancouver, in fact, who maintain an affiliation in Utica, New York.
When San Antonio moves west to Nevada later this year, they’ll likely shift to the Pacific Division to make travel easier. That would give the Pacific Division eight teams, leaving seven in the Central.
However, knowing that Palm Springs will be joining in 2021, the AHL will probably want to save a space for them in the Pacific. With five teams already in California and another in Tucson, Arizona, it only makes sense to see the Colorado Eagles move to the Central Division. The only question is whether they’ll make the move in 2020 or 2021.
While we’re talking about Colorado, the Eagles may soon have a cross-state rival in the AHL. Rumors have circulated that Colorado Springs could land a team by 2021 or 2022. Given the attendance issues in Stockton, California, it’s plausible the Calgary Flames’ affiliate, the Stockton Heat, could be on the move. That would create a new divisional alignment issue itself, but that’s for another discussion.