According to the Calgary Flames organization, the AHL Board of Governors have approved the relocation of the Stockton Heat to Calgary beginning the 2022-23 season.
With a long year of disappointing crowds and relocation rumors circulating every offseason for the last couple years, the Heat are finally making a change to hopefully drum up some more interest in a hotter hockey market.
Stockton ranks dead last in 2022 AHL Playoff attendance so far, with an average of just over 1,700 people in attendance. Their regular season numbers were pretty on par with this, placing the Heat second to last in the league for average attendance (just ahead of the Belleville Senators). It’s pretty hard to justify when you are in a state with three NHL teams and AHL teams mere hours away that are doubling and tripling these numbers.
On top of that, Stockton held the top spot in the Pacific Division pretty much all season and spent a good amount of time at the top of the league with its franchise year. If that’s not enough to bring out the fans, what is?
What We Know
With the Flames still in the playoffs and the Heat getting started in the Pacific Division Finals, there is a lot going on within the organization. News like this is sure to get out, so the snippet of public knowledge so far is quite limited.
The Stockton Heat as we know them now will finish up the 2021-22 season as far as that takes them — in Stockton, California. When it comes time for the 2022-23 season, that will take place in Calgary, Alberta for at least one whole season. This is confirmed through the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the AHL, and the Calgary Flames organization.
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What We Don’t Know
With an active playoff series going on, it is understandable that the logistics of relocating a team are not all sorted out on the day it is announced by the league. There are bigger fish to fry, so to speak.
What is uncertain at this time is if Stockton will indeed keep the nickname “Heat” next season. They played in Calgary before in recent history, as they created an isolated Canadian Division bubble in the 2020-21 season. However, the intention was always to return to Stockton, so their name did not change despite the fact their city did.
What is also unknown is where they will play. The Saddledome is in pretty high demand these days with the Calgary Flames, Calgary Hitmen, and Calgary Roughnecks all being either major juniors or pro teams playing out of this venue. Not to mention, the concerts and other large-scale events that come to Calgary also require the space the venue provides.
The City of Calgary recently tore down the Stampede Corral, which served as a back-up practice facility in the same parking lot as the Saddledome and was also an early venue for major sporting events in Calgary. The options are limited around the city as many facilities are in high demand and would not support the large scale hosting and seating capacity required for an AHL team.
Another unknown to add to the list is the timeframe of this residency. It will for sure play through the 2022-23 season, but beyond that leaves an unknown for the organization. In an already pretty full Pacific Division, will this also bring the return of the Heat to the North Division or a revamped Canadian Division? So much is left to be answered in the near future.
The news is out there and public. This gives the teams and organization some time to work out what this will look like for the following season. More importantly, they need to finish the season they’re in (hopefully, with some continued success). Answering the unknowns of this relocation is far down on the priority list; you can expect announcements to come out in the next weeks to months with more details on how this will come to life.
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