The tweet of Radio host and St Louis based NHL writer Andy Strickland made the news official, the Vancouver Canucks have purchased the AHL Peoria Rivermen franchise, with the Chicago Wolves soon expected to become the affiliate to the St Louis Blues. It is definitely the end of an era but a new beginning of sorts in Chicago for the St. Louis Blues.
The news has followed recent speculation involving a three way change in AHL affiliates with the Blues taking over the Chicago Wolves, the Canucks taking over the Rivermen franchise and relocating them to Abbotsford with the Flames moving their current Abbotsford Heat affiliate to New York.
Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal Star posted a statement made by Peoria Civic Center GM Jim Wetherington this morning, confirming the split between the Rivermen affiliate and St Louis Blues;
The Rivermen are leaving. They are gone. That’s really all it says. The Blues have exercised their option in the lease to end the agreement.
With the Canucks now owning the Peoria Rivermen AHL franchise, fans can expect an announcement soon that the Calgary Flames affiliate team will move away the city, most likely to New York, with the Canucks relocating the Rivermen franchise under a new name to Abbotsford, which is only an hours drive from Vancouver.
The Abbotsford Heat have been losing money each year since inception into the AHL four seasons ago, mainly due to being a Calgary affiliate in the heart of BC. A switch of alliances from the Flames to the Canucks in Abbotsford is expected to draw more fans to games and create a lot more buzz in the area, as well as allowing Canucks affiliate players to be much closer to the big club for potential call-ups.
The Peoria Journal of Illinois has also suggested that in the unlikely event the Calgary Flames choose not to move the franchise from Abbotsford, the Canucks may keep the affiliate team in Peoria for next season and reassess after 2013/14. In turn, if the Rivermen are moved, it has also been rumored that Peoria may form a new ECHL team to keep hockey in the area.
Some suggestions for new Vancouver AHL team names that have been floating around Twitter and online forums include the Abbotsford Millionaires, the name of the old Vancouver team or the Abbotsford Airmen, taking in a part of the history of the area.