The American Hockey League might create a new division of teams based in California.
It’s a move that has been talked about for several seasons, with some West Coast National Hockey League teams apparently anxious to bring their farm teams closer to home.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Tuesday that this could become a reality as early as next season.
According to the U-T report, the Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals AHL franchise and move that team to San Diego. It also said the league will create a five-team Pacific Division, which will require the move of the Oklahoma City Barons, the Worcester Sharks, the Manchester Monarchs, and the Adirondack Flames.
The newspaper said an official announcement is expected Thursday.
As of Monday, AHL President Dave Andrews was not ready to commit to this new reality.
He would not confirm any changes Monday at Turning Stone Resort Casino in his state of the league news conference in the midst of the AHL All-Star Classic weekend.
“We are still not across the line on a Pacific Division launch this year,” he said. “There are still unresolved issues.
“I need the grace of some bit of time to cross the T’s and dot the I’s.”
Apparently a few days is all that is needed.
Utica Comets President Rob Esche said he could not comment on any possible moves, other than to say he is not worried if the league does indeed go through some changes.
“There is no reason for the Comets and their supporters and fans to be nervous,” he said.
The creation of a new division would necessitate a realignment of the AHL’s Western and Eastern conferences and six divisions. Andrews said that would have to be done by the league’s spring meeting May 11, and that in practical terms everything would have to be set by the first week in April.
“We’re going through a process we’ve never been through before,” he said. “It is difficult for some markets, but it is something we have to do. It will strengthen the league. It is not something fans in some markets will feel good about, but strengthening the league and stabilizing the league is important to the fan base overall.”
Some markets that lose AHL franchises, if not all of them, will have professional hockey next year, Andrews said, a reference to the East Coast Hockey League. He did not discuss possible moves within the AHL itself.
Andrews said the creation of a Pacific division will reflect a movement that eventually will see the AHL’s geography more closely resemble that of the NHL, with NHL teams attempting to have affiliates in close proximity.