Why the Canucks Couldn’t Keep AHL Team in Peoria

Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks couldn’t reach an agreement to keep the Peoria Rivermen in the city due to demands for a local ownership group to operate the team as a break-even operation and a $1 million upgrade to locker room facilities.

Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal Star reports:

Vancouver, when it was in talks to keep the AHL in Carver Arena, wanted $1 million in structural upgrades to a Rivermen locker room complex that was built for seven figures just 8 years ago, according to sources.

The Canucks also wanted Bart Rogers and John Butler to operate the AHL farm team. The duo — which manages U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington — opted to form an ownership group and bring an SPHL team to Peoria instead.

The Canucks want a guaranteed break-even AHL operation — you can count the number of those that exist in the AHL on one hand — and that means someone in Utica might have to cover annual seven-figure operating deficits for the NHL parent.

In the same report, Eminian calls Utica, New York (where the Canucks are rumoured to be placing their AHL team) a place that has a “horrific history” with professional hockey. He says the Utica Memorial Auditorium has not managed to attract more than 2,800 fans for a professional hockey game in its history and any upgrades would only bring the arena “close” to AHL standards.

It sounds like the Canucks tried to played hard ball with those involved in Peoria hoping to strike a more favourable deal, but it backfired. They are now stuck with the less favourable option of Utica, a city that is located further away from Vancouver than Peoria.

The Canucks have until June 12 to sign an agreement with Utica officials and put it to a vote by the AHL Board of Governors.

Topics: Peoria Rivermen, Vancouver Canucks

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