The deal was done, but the launch delayed. Finally, the Vancouver Canucks farm team now has a name, announcing it today over their Instagram account. Hardly the most impressive debut, but it’s appropriate given the year the team has had. The planned move from Utica was discovered by a search of copyright applications, the initial launch was delayed by personal problems in the announcement team, and the underwhelming name, well, that fits right in.
Hi! My Name Is
The Abbotsford Canucks begin life today not only as a club but as a marketing event. The name is an obvious tie-in for the team to exploit, and they are keeping the parent team’s colours. And there’s no doubting who the Canucks farm team is, for better or worse. The biggest advantage for marketing is probably jersey sales, where the AHL one will come much cheaper. Picking up a gree-and-blue Canucks jersey with Jack Rathbone’s name on it? You can get the Vancouver Canucks’ one – likely the only option, with Rathbone almost certainly never seeing the AHL again. Or you could pick up Jett Woo’s Abbotsford sweater for a lot less and wear it to his debut with the big club, whenever that happens.
The colours matching will change the mix-and-match look of a Canucks home crowd, which is a bit of a shame. Currently, fans can buy team jerseys in predominantly white or black, blue or green, maroon or gold… That variety matches the city and their fans pretty well, frankly. We’ll see how often the Abbotsford team changes it up.
As for the logo itself, “Johnny Canuck” has been an official/unofficial part of the team for years, pre-existing the NHL team. The Western Hockey League Vancouver Canucks used the “skating logger” character back in 1952 when they moved from the Pacific Coast Hockey League. The logo was dropped in favour of the “stick-in-rink” with the move to the NHL in 1970, but it came back as a shoulder patch in the mid-2000s. That’s the official version, with unofficial ones used in fan art and the like through the Canucks history. It was re-incorporated with third jerseys and the like but now has a permanent home in Abbotsford. Or at least as permanent as any sports logo is.
Feeling the NOT Heat
There were plans for the Canucks farm team to move to Abbotsford since they first purchased the Peoria Rivermen in 2013 – a bit of that history here – but between a team already being in place, some awkward negotiations, and some uncertainty of the viability of an AHL team being there it was delayed. Now, though, everyone seems to be on the same page. One of the larger concerns was whether the town would be left holding the bag financially if the team didn’t draw. Perfectly reasonable concern, given the slightly disastrous results of the Abbotsford Heat tenure. But the Vancouver Canucks still have their fans and a strong presence in town. They are THE team in this city, even after years of dubious moves, lawsuits, and miserable results.
Bad teams always promote their future. With the future an hour’s drive away, there should be ample support for this new AHL squad. Add the massive shift of five AHL squads to California in 2015 and Abbotsford is not only more likely to draw locally but has competition that is more affordable to reach. All signs point to this time working out for Abbotsford, the NHL parent, and the AHL team.
Of the questions remaining, most of it is populating the squad. The coaching and management staff are from Utica, moving with the team. The players, on the other hand, were split between the Canucks and the St. Louis Blues last season. That dropped the personnel cost for both NHL squads but means there are some holes to fill. For now, all those decisions are going to be on hold until the Seattle Kraken expansion is completed. Even then, hard decisions are going to be made.
If the Canucks can move players back and forth to their AHL affiliate easily, that will help reduce the salary cap impact – but only if they aren’t into long-term injured reserve. That means Michael Ferland’s contract can get moved this year instead of being used as a financial cushion. Is the team going to entice the Kraken into taking an expensive contract? How much will it cost if they do? If they can’t move contracts off the books, they may repeat their reliance on LTIR cap relief for one more season. New deals for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are obviously going to affect the cap situation as well.
The Vancouver Canucks have a huge number of interconnected parts on the move this off-season. All of them are going to influence who is playing for the Abbotsford Canucks. But at least these moving parts have a lot less distance to travel.