|City:||Utica, New York|
|League:||American Hockey League|
|Home Arena:||Utica Memorial Auditorium|
|Colors:||Blue, green, silver, white
|Owner(s):||Canucks Sports & Entertainment|
(leased to Robert Esche)
|Head Coach:||Travis Green|
|Media:||WKLL (94.9 FM)|
WKTV NewsChannel 2
WUTR Eyewitness News
|Affiliates:||Vancouver Canucks (NHL)|
Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL)
The Utica Comets are a professional ice hockey team based in Utica, New York. They are members of the North Division, of the Western Conference of the American Hockey League (AHL). Beginning play in the 2013–14 season, the team plays at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, as the AHL affiliate of the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks. The Comets are the second AHL team to call Utica home; the Utica Devils played in the city from 1987 until 1993 and were affiliated with the New Jersey Devils.
History[edit | edit source]
The Comets' franchise, one of the oldest professional hockey teams in existence, dates back to 1932, when the team was known as the Quebec Beavers. In 1935, the franchise moved to Springfield and became the Indians, reviving the name after the original Indians franchise ceased operations during the 1932-33 Canadian-American Hockey League season. In addition to the Indians, the team has been known as the Syracuse Warriors, Springfield Kings, Worcester IceCats and was most recently known as the Peoria Rivermen. The Rivermen franchise was purchased by Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CS&E), owners of the National Hockey League's (NHL) Vancouver Canucks, in a deal announced on March 29, 2013 and approved by the American Hockey League (AHL) on April 18.
After purchasing the Rivermen franchise, CS&E made intentions to have the franchise located in a market close to Vancouver. Their initial preference was Abbotsford, British Columbia, which was home to the Calgary Flames' AHL farm club, the Abbotsford Heat. The Heat had been rumored to relocate to Utica, New York at the time. Negotiations between the Canucks and Abbotsford broke down by April 22, ensuring the Heat would remain in the city. Media reports speculated that Canucks would move the team to Vancouver and share Rogers Arena, which is also owned by CS&E, with the Canucks. This proved impossible as Vancouver is within Abbotsford's 50-mile territorial radius provided by the AHL. A reported plan to have the team play in Seattle's KeyArena was disallowed by the NHL as Seattle was reportedly a candidate to land the troubled Phoenix Coyotes franchise; however, the Coyotes have since found a new owner who intends to keep the franchise in Arizona.
By mid-May 2013, CS&E's options for the franchise were dwindling; they did consider keeping the franchise in Peoria, but notified the city on May 13 that it would not operate in that city and the Rivermen were replaced by a Southern Professional Hockey League team of the same name. CS&E did consider placing the franchise in dormancy for the 2013–14 season, with the Canucks loaning their AHL prospects to other teams. Facing an extended deadline by the AHL to find a new home, CS&E agreed to a deal with Utica, New York to relocate the franchise to the city's soon-to-be-renovated Memorial Auditorium. The deal was confirmed on June 14 with an official announcement revealing the Utica Comets name and affiliation, along with logo and jerseys patterned after the Canucks' blue, green, and silver color scheme. The Comets' nickname honors several prior professional hockey teams in the Mohawk Valley, most notably the Clinton and Mohawk Valley Comets which played from 1927 until 1977 (as the Mohawk Valley Comets, they called the Memorial Auditorium home); the Atlantic Coast Hockey League's Mohawk Valley Comets, which played from 1985 until 1987; and a third team of the same name, which played in the North Eastern Hockey League during the 2003–04 season.
After the founding CS&E began hiring personnel to run the team. Travis Green became the first head coach in team history, Paul Jerrard and Nolan Baumgartner were named assistant coaches and Pat Conacher was hired as the director of hockey operations. Utica played its first game on October 11, 2013, a 4–1 loss to the Rochester Americans. In the game Pascal Pelletier scored the first goal in Comets history. Utica lost two more games before making their home debut. Before the game the Comets celebrated the regions hockey history with a slide show, Gordie Howe dropped the ceremonial puck and the Hanson Brothers from the movie Slap Shot made an appearance. Utica lost the game 4–1 to the Albany Devils. A week after their home opener Colin Stuart was named team captain. The Comets finished their debut season with 35 victories and 79 points, just four behind the last spot of the playoffs. 17 of the team's 38 home games were sold out.
Before the 2014-15 season begun, Cal O'Reilly was named the team's new captain. The Comets saw much improvement in their sophomore season, and after Sven Baertschi and Cory Conacher were acquired in trades, the team soon dominated the Western Conference, finishing the regular season as the top seed. During the playoffs, the Comets won the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference champions, advancing to the Calder Cup finals against the Manchester Monarchs; the Comets would fall to the Monarchs in five games.
Season-by-season results[edit | edit source]
|2013–14||76||35||32||5||4||79||.520||187||216||3rd, North||2014||Out of playoffs|
|2014–15||76||47||20||7||2||103||.678||219||182||1st, North||2015||W 3-2, CHI||W 4-3, OKC||W 4-2, GRG||L 1-4 MAN|
|2015-16||76||38||26||8||4||88||.579||224||217||3rd, North||2016||L 1-3, ALB||-||-||-||-|
|2016-17||76||35||32||7||2||79||.520||195||220||5th, North||2017||Out of playoffs|
|2017-18||76||38||26||8||4||88||.579||211||216||4th, North||2018||L 2-3, TOR||-||-||-||-|
|2018–19||76||34||34||6||2||76||.500||224||257||6th, North||2019||Out of playoffs|
References[edit | edit source]
- Report: Vancouver Canucks Purchase Rivermen; Move to Abbotsford?. Thecanuckway.com. Retrieved on 2013-06-14.
- Kramer, Lindsay (2013-02-26). Possible AHL move to Utica stirs conflicting reports. The Post-Standard. Retrieved on 2013-06-20.
- McIntyre, Gordon (2013-04-23). Abbotsford Heat staying put for next season at least after Canucks talks break down. The Province. Retrieved on 2013-06-14.
- Dan Kinvig (2013-04-13). Heat's territorial rights limit Canucks' local AHL options - Abbotsford News. Abbotsford News. Retrieved on 2013-06-14.
- Mirtle, James (2013-06-17). Seattle on NHL's relocation radar yet again. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved on 2013-06-20.
- Eminian, Dave (2013-04-23). Civic Center begins talks with NHL Vancouver over Rivermen. Peoria Journal-Star. Retrieved on 2013-06-20.
- Eminian, Dave (2013-05-13). Peoria to join SPHL under former Rivermen management team. Peoria Journal-Star. Retrieved on 2013-06-20.
- Report: Canucks won't operate AHL affiliate in Peoria. Abbotsford News (2013-05-13). Retrieved on 2013-06-14.
- Pap, Elliott (2013-05-13). Utica rolls out welcome mat for AHL. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved on 2013-06-20.
- Brough, Jason (2013-06-06). Report: Canucks moving AHL affiliate to Utica. NBC Sports. Retrieved on 2013-06-14.
- Pitarresi, John (2013-06-14). Utica scores with new hockey team; Comets to play in AHL. Observer-Dispatch. Retrieved on 2013-06-14.
- Travis Green leaving Winterhawks to become coach of AHL's Utica Comets. The Oregonian (2013-07-11). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
- Utica Comets assistant coach and director of hockey operations announced. WKTV (2013-08-13). Retrieved on 2013-11-16.
- Comets rewind - Oct 15, 2013. Vancouver Canucks (2013-10-15). Retrieved on 2013-11-16.
- Hughes, Steve (2013-10-15). Long time coming: Utica embraces return of pro hockey. Observer-Dispatch. Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
- Comets fall 4-1 to Albany Devils in home opener. WKTV (2013-10-23). Retrieved on 2013-11-16.
- Colin Stuart named first Comets captain in franchise history. WKTV (2013-10-30). Retrieved on 2013-11-16.
- Comets Year in Review By the Numbers
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