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.
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.
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.
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 covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.