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Vancouver Canucks to move AHL affiliate to Utica

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According to multiple media reports Thursday, the Vancouver Canucks will station their American Hockey League affiliate in Utica, N.Y. next season.

The move has reportedly been approved by the AHL board of governors, and a press conference is set for noon Eastern time on Friday in Utica.

The Abbotsford Heat had been rumoured to be heading to Utica, with the Peoria Rivermen – the former St. Louis Blues affiliate purchased by the Canucks in late March – moving here to replace them.

But the Canucks were unable to come to an agreement with the City of Abbotsford, and on April 22, the city confirmed that talks had broken down, ensuring that the Calgary Flames-affiliated Heat would return for the 2013-14 season.

Mayor Bruce Banman left the door open to future talks between the NHL franchise and the municipality, though, and it's thought that the Canucks would still like to bring their AHL affiliate to Abbotsford eventually.

The Heat have struggled at the box office since arriving in Abbotsford prior to the 2009-10 season, averaging 3,897, 3,807, 3,545 and 3,778 fans annually over their first four campaigns at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

The team has a supply fee agreement that guarantees an annual break-even budget of $5.7 million, and the city has covered a total of $3.58 million in shortfalls over the first three seasons ($450,000 in 2009-10, $1.37 million in 2010-11, and $1.76 million in 2011-12). Final financial figures for 2012-13 are expected in the fall.

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