clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Making sense of all the team movement in minor league hockey this 2015 offseason

New, comments

At least 18 different cities will be impacted in some way by dramatic franchise movement in the AHL and ECHL.

Dave Sandford/Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets announced Monday morning that they'll reincarnate the old Manitoba Moose of the AHL when they relocate their AHL franchise, the St. John's Ice Caps, to Winnipeg for the 2015-16 season.

The move is just one of more than a dozen moves that have taken place in the lower levels of hockey this year, most of which stem from the big western migration of five AHL teams from the northeast to the west coast.

With all of these changes, it can be really hard to wrap your head around it all ...  so we're going to try to summarize it all to keep track. Here's a quick(ish) summary.

6 cities gain AHL hockey
  • Ontario, Calif. will get a promotion when the Los Angeles Kings move their AHL team from Manchester, N.H. to Ontario. They will take the old name of the ECHL's Ontario Reign, becoming the Ontario Reign of the AHL.
  • Stockton, Calif. gets the same sweet deal when the Calgary Flames move their AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Flames, from Glens Falls, N.Y. to Stockton. They will be named the Stockton Heat.
  • San Diego will get professional hockey back after a decade without it. The Anaheim Ducks purchased their AHL affiliate, the Norfolk (Va.) Admirals, and will relocate them to San Diego, where they will give new life to the storied San Diego Gulls name. Teams known as the San Diego Gulls have played in five different professional leagues: the Western Hockey League, International Hockey League, West Coast Hockey League, ECHL and now AHL.
  • San Jose will get a second professional hockey team when the NHL's Sharks move their AHL affiliate, the Worcester (Mass.) Sharks, west. The team will be known as the San Jose Barracuda and will share the SAP Center with the NHL's Sharks.
  • Bakersfield, Calif. will become the new home of the Edmonton Oilers' AHL affiliate. The Oilers folded their AHL team, the Oklahoma City Barons, and will move them to Bakersfield. The team will take the name of the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors.
  • The Manitoba Moose were displaced by the NHL's Winnipeg Jets in 2011, but they're coming back home in 2015-16. The Jets will move their AHL affiliate, the St. John's (Nfld.) Ice Caps, to Winnipeg and will bring back the old Moose brand. Like in San Jose, the AHL and NHL team will share the same building.
3 cities lose AHL, but gain ECHL
  • Glens Falls, N.Y. will lose the AHL's Adirondack Flames when Calgary Flames ownership moves them to Stockton, Calif. ... but the city will gain Stockton's old ECHL team, the Stockton Thunder. They will be known as the Adirondack Thunder and will keep the affiliation with Calgary.
  • Manchester, N.H. is in the same boat as Glens Falls. Years of strong support for their AHL team, the Manchester Monarchs, wasn't enough to keep the AHL in town. The Los Angeles Kings moved their affiliate closer to home in Ontario, Calif., but will move their ECHL affiliate to Manchester to compensate. The team will keep the Manchester Monarchs name.
  • Norfolk, Va. will lose its AHL team, the Norfolk Admirals, when the Anaheim Ducks move them to San Diego. The Edmonton Oilers will fill the void, however, moving its ECHL franchise from Bakersfield, Calif. to Norfolk. They will keep the Norfolk Admirals name.
1 city loses pro hockey, gains major junior hockey
  • The Montreal Canadiens purchased their AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, and will relocate them to St. John's, Nfld. Hamilton, Ont. will not get a professional team back in the Bulldogs' place; instead, the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls will relocate to Hamilton. They'll keep the Hamilton Bulldogs name in the OHL.
1 city loses AHL team but gains new one
  • While the Winnipeg Jets may be moving their AHL franchise from St. John's, Nfld. to Winnipeg, the city will get a new team when the Montreal Canadiens move their franchise to St. John's. The team will keep the St. John's IceCaps moniker -- but it could be short lived, as it's expected the Habs will move their AHL franchise to a new arena in Laval, a suburb of Montreal, in 2017.
3 cities lose hockey entirely
  • When the Edmonton Oilers could not agree to a new lease deal for their AHL franchise in Oklahoma City, they packed up and moved them to Bakersfield. No team will fill the void in OKC, so the city will be without professional hockey in 2015-16.
  • For just the second season in 21 years, Worcester, Mass. will not have hockey in 2015-16. The NHL's Sharks moved their AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, to San Jose.
  • Belleville, Ont. will not have a team in 2015-16 after the OHL's Bulls move to Hamilton.
4 AHL teams change NHL affiliation

These are all lesser impacts of the AHL-to-California domino effect. The general trend: teams want their AHL affiliates as close to home as possible. Arizona and Florida still have this pretty rough despite these changes, and others like Vancouver / Utica and Tampa Bay / Syracuse have it bad as well. But the trend is pretty clear.

  • Lake Erie Monsters: Colorado → Columbus
  • Springfield Falcons: Columbus → Arizona
  • Portland Pirates: Arizona → Florida
  • San Antonio Rampage: Florida → Colorado
The full list of franchise moves
  • AHL Adirondack Flames → AHL Stockton Heat (Flames)
  • ECHL Stockton Thunder (Flames) → ECHL Adirondack Thunder (Flames)
  • AHL Manchester Monarchs (Kings) → AHL Ontario Reign (Kings)
  • ECHL Ontario Reign (Kings) → ECHL Manchester Monarchs (Kings)
  • AHL Worcester Sharks → AHL San Jose Barracuda (Sharks)
  • AHL Norfolk Admirals (Ducks) → AHL San Diego Gulls (Ducks)
  • ECHL Bakersfield Condors (Oilers) → ECHL Norfolk Admirals (Oilers)
  • AHL Oklahoma City Barons (Oilers) → AHL Bakersfield Condors (Oilers)
  • AHL St. John's Ice Caps (Jets) → AHL Manitoba Moose (Jets)
  • AHL Hamilton Bulldogs (Canadiens) → AHL St. John's Ice Caps (Canadiens) → likely to Laval, Quebec in 2017-18.
  • OHL Belleville Bulls → OHL Hamilton Bulldogs