No More AHL In Glens Falls?

This season marked 25 years of the American Hockey League at the Glens Falls Civic Center.  For 20 years, the Adirondack Red Wings made it one of the toughest barns in the league and for the past five, the Adirondack Phantoms breathed some life back into the patient.  Unfortunately for fans of the North Country club in Glens Falls, NY, the building, where the AHL stands, may be going dark for good.

200px-AdirondackPhantoms

Much of the reason for that is the building itself.  Although the GFCC is intimate and on top of the action, it just doesn’t have enough of the modern amenities (i.e. luxury boxes and modernized locker rooms) to make it feasible for an AHL club moving forward.  In fact, aside from a new makeshift video board and a few touch ups here and there, it isn’t all that different from when the A-Wings left in 1999.  Which is sad, for a rabid and loyal fan base, which deserved better from the local political leadership.

There were hints that maybe the Portland Pirates (playing in Lewiston, Maine this season) would relocate, if a new lease deal couldn’t be hammered out with the Cumberland County Civic Center.  According to reports, there was allegedly one other potential unidentified club (Abbotsford Heat?), which told Glens Falls officials that it would be staying put.  Alas, the GFCC is mired in the past.

Adirondack of course has a strong past, with the A-Wings serving as a model franchise, winning four Calder Cup titles and only missing the playoffs once from 1979 to 1999.  That history, standard and those expectations, make it all the more impressive that fans have thrown their support behind a temporary Phantoms team, which has only remotely sniffed a postseason birth once in 2011-12.  As of this writing, the Phantoms are tied for 13th (oddly enough with the Pirates) in the Eastern Conference and 17 points out of a playoff spot.

Tomas Holmstrom Red Wings

Former Detroit and Adirondack Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, a four-time Stanley Cup champion.  (Icon SMI)

Those standards would almost surely indicate that it will be AHL or bust for the old barn up I-87.  Just ask the old UHL Adirondack IceHawks (1999-2004) and Barry Melrose (who coached the A-Wings to their final Calder Cup title in 1991-92) and Steve Levy, who bought and re-branded the franchise as the UHL Adirondack Frostbite, from 2004 to 2006.  While it isn’t impossible, a long shot deal might stem from a local ownership group purchasing an ECHL club and serving as a de facto affiliate for supplying the AHL Albany Devils an hour south.

In all fairness though, one has to give a lot of credit to the league, Jim and Rob Brooks, the old Albany River Rats and their owner Walter L. Robb and their former Head Coach, former A-Wing Tom Rowe, for helping give the Glens Falls another shot on the AHL stage.  It was a temporary arrangement to begin with and with arena delays in Allentown for the future Lehigh Valley Phantoms, lasted one more year than was originally planned.  No, the Phantoms weren’t as successful as they were in Philadelphia, winning a pair of Calder Cup titles, but fans have gotten the chance to watch nearly 50 NHL players skate through town in an Adirondack sweater.

Couturier Flyers

Former Adirondack Phantoms and current Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier, does battle around the net. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Could the AHL come back if the NHL expands to say Seattle, Toronto or Quebec?  Perhaps.  Unfortunately, being the smallest market in the league, coupled with a lack of funding for upgrades, doesn’t bode well for Adirondack fans, regardless of how fervent the support.  For now though, when the building goes dark in April, Glens Falls fans seeing red now, may have to rock their red, an hour south in Albany, if they want to watch the closest AHL action next season.

Michael Gwizdala
Michael Gwizdala covers the New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers. Michael has also written for the Times Union and has been published on numerous outlets on the web. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is also a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.
Michael Gwizdala
Michael Gwizdala

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2 Comments

  1. This blows. The AHL finds itself in these messes too often: An otherwise very viable AHL market with no team to play in it and other markets that have absolutely no reason to remain a part of the landscape yet continue to draw their 2000-3000 per night. David Andrews is a better businessman than this.

    • It is unfortunate they couldn’t find a new club for Glens Falls. The fan support has been respectable, considering the size of the market and the product on the ice. The age of the building, lack of amenities, luxury boxes and corporate sponsorship, did them in. One would think they’d be a good fit for Montreal or a future Quebec team, geography wise, plus they’re close enough to other AHL markets in New York and New England for conducive travel. We almost had the same situation happen in Albany but when the local ownership group sold the River Rats, we were lucky enough that the county and arena, in conjunction with the New Jersey Devils ownership, helped in making the necessary facility upgrades and the geography within the league and in approximation to Newark is helpful too.

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