The Abbotsford Heat were ahead of their time. Sure, they were victims of being the Calgary Flames farm team entrenched firmly in Vancouver Canucks territory, but they were also alone in a desolate wasteland devoid of other American Hockey League teams. That meant excessive travel, not enough practice time, and the eventual death of the franchise.
The Flames gave it a go for a year in New York state, but that didn't work out for the best, either. The prospects got more practice time, but recalls had the potential to turn into nightmares. Just ask Joni Ortio about his days-long adventure to get the heck out of Glens Falls and into Calgary, dealing with snowstorms and delayed flights all the way.
Now, though, the team now has the best of both worlds. Their new affiliate in Stockton, California isn't as close as Abbotsford was, but it isn't in (as intense) surrounding enemy territory, either.
Oh: and with the new AHL realignment, they finally have divisional opponents within driving distance.
The Stockton Heat will make up one-seventh of the AHL's new Pacific Division. Their division opponents are all in California or Texas.
Here they are:
|AHL Team||NHL Affiliate||Distance from Stockton|
|San Jose Barracuda||San Jose Sharks||~75 miles|
|Bakersfield Condors||Edmonton Oilers||~230 miles|
|Ontario Reign||Los Angeles Kings||~370 miles|
|San Diego Gulls||Anaheim Ducks||~460 miles|
|San Antonio Rampage||Colorado Avalanche||~1,690 miles|
|Texas Stars||Dallas Stars||~1,715 miles|
The Texas-based teams still require a hefty deal of travel, but the good news is the Flames finally have their affiliate in a cooperative timezone, presumably where there will be cooperative weather, with most of their divisional opponents just a stone's throw away (if you can throw a stone over a couple hundred miles, that is).
In fact, Calgary is actually closer to Stockton than San Antonio and Cedar Park (where the Stars affiliate play), so whether it's travel between games or a recall, the baby Flames should be up for it.
With the launching of five California-based teams, the AHL Flames' - now the Heat once again - divisional opponents seemed clear, but now we have the full list. While there are still a few difficulties - not to mention the fact that out of division, everyone is still pretty far away - it's a much better situation for them, and one that will hopefully pay dividends for the prospects.
The AHL Pacific Division is a near mirror of the NHL's, just without the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks, who will play in Springfield, MA., and Utica, NY.