Two Canadian NHL franchises have announced plans to relocate their AHL affiliates to two new Canadian cities for the 2017-18 season.
It's long been known the Montreal Canadiens will move the AHL's St. John's IceCaps to Laval, Quebec after the 2015-16 season. On Sept. 8, that team was officially named the Club de hockey Rocket de Laval — or simply Laval Rocket for us English-speakers.
The new name was selected by a vote of fans over Patriots and Rapids. The name honors Habs legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard.
In a way, it's a revival of the QMJHL franchise established in 1999 as the Montreal Rocket. That club relocated to Prince Edward Island in 2003 and kept the Rocket moniker for 10 years. In 2013, the team rebranded as the Charlottetown Islanders.
The Canadiens confirm the creative process is underway and the new Laval Rocket logo should be unveiled in the coming months.
On Monday, another longtime NHL/AHL rumor was confirmed when the Ottawa Senators announced the purchase of the AHL's Binghamton Senators and their plans to move the club to Belleville, Ontario.
The Belleville Senators will apparently use the same logo as Ottawa. The move marks the end of a 15-year run for Binghamton as Ottawa's top affiliate. But I doubt it will be very long before Binghamton finds a replacement.
In fact, the new Bell-Sens — can I call them that? — replace the junior club that Belleville lost last year after the Canadiens moved the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs to Newfoundland last year and the OHL's Belleville Bulls replaced them in Hamilton.
I know, it all sounds very convoluted.
There's no doubt hockey fans in Binghamton and St. John's have to be feeling pretty disappointed. I'm not sure I could invest in season tickets knowing my team was on the way out of town. But there is an upside.
With these relocation announcements coming a full year in advance, each city now has plenty of time to find a replacement team ahead of the 2017-18 season. Always a silver lining, I suppose.
St. John's just went through all this last year when the original IceCaps moved to Winnipeg and became the latest iteration of the Manitoba Moose. AHL hockey in the city was saved only by the Bulldogs' relocation.
In both of these cases, the NHL club set out to move its minor league operation closer to home. Last year, the Jets and Sharks moved their AHL teams into their own building, so this does seem to be a trend.
Add to all that, the 2017-18 season will also see the debut of a new NHL expansion franchise in Las Vegas which will almost certainly expand the AHL to another city out west.
What do you make of all the upheaval planned for the AHL next year?