Day-to-day. Year to year. Such is the life of an AHL city these days. The Times Union Center hosted the Albany Slap-Shot Breakfast, bringing together area politicians and business leaders, in an effort to keep the Albany Devils in town beyond 2015-16. Although the club hasn’t threatened to bolt, there have been whispers the team could follow the example of San Jose and Winnipeg and move the AHL squad to the Prudential Center in Newark.
— Albany Devils (@AlbanyDevils) July 22, 2015
Retaining an AHL team in Albany will take hard work and contributions from all parties. The business community needs to step up and show some civic pride, as they do in other upstate cities like Rochester and Syracuse. The arena, city and county need to boost promotional efforts. Area media, more TV than print, should start covering the team like it’s an AHL club, one step away from the NHL. Plus, while one can’t guarantee a winning season, the Devils must ice a playoff caliber squad.
— Downtown Albany BID (@AlbanyBID) July 22, 2015
As the Devils unveiled their 2015-16 theme, “United In Red,” all sides in attendance offered plans to make the AHL more vibrant in Albany.
The Times Union newspaper for its part is offering a deal wherein they will match advertising costs of businesses which purchase season ticket packages. Hence, if a business advertises with the TU and buys season tickets, the paper will match those season tickets costs in accordance with advertising dollars in the paper.
Much like Newark does with the New Jersey Devils, the city of Albany for its part will be hanging Devils banners downtown to create more awareness of the team. Additionally, the Saratoga Casino and Raceway has inked a three-year deal with the Times Union Center in sponsoring the Devils.
The club for its part, brings in $17 million to the local economy, according to the arena. A-Devils CEO and Alternate Governor Chris Ciceri also mentioned the organization will be looking to bring the AHL All-Star Game to Albany for the fist time ever. Considering how Albany has had AHL hockey for 22 seasons and other upstate cities, including Utica last year and Syracuse this year, have hosted the game, it’s long overdue. Ciceri says the event would bring in around $5 million dollars.
— Bob Howard (@PPPSHOW) January 26, 2015
With the changing of the guard in New Jersey, perhaps the club would also consider giving Walter Robb a call to see if they could wear a throwback alternate sweater to the days when the Devils were affiliated with the Albany River Rats from 1993-2006. After all, nostalgia sells and entering their sixth season back in Albany, the Devils are far enough removed from the Carolina Hurricanes days to where they could celebrate a past which included a Calder Cup in 1994-95, two regular season titles, four division titles and contributions to three Stanley Cup winning teams.
Last season the Devils averaged 3,323 fans per game, playing 35 in Albany, one in Newark and two in Atlantic City. Albany does have NHL facilities, a close proximity to New Jersey and will support a team which places a quality product on the ice. Make no mistake, if the Devils bolt Albany, it won’t be for any of the AHL vacated cities, they’ll go to Newark, even if they don’t draw down there either for AHL pucks. Does everything come together with local business support to help close the gap? We’ll see.
If it doesn’t, the TU Center is going to have to beg the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators or perhaps a Quebec expansion team for an NHL owned AHL affiliate or risk having the building go dark for 40 nights from October to April.
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.