Sports

Heat's looming departure won't be a distraction to team: Ward

Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward doesn
Abbotsford Heat head coach Troy Ward doesn't believe that the announcement that the franchise is moving will distract his players heading into the playoffs.
— image credit: Dan Kinvig file photo

Could the announcement of the Abbotsford Heat's impending move out of town be a distraction to the team as they prepare for the Calder Cup playoffs?

Head coach Troy Ward didn't bust out a Brooklyn accent, but his thoughts on that notion were decisive: Fuhgeddaboudit.

"The timing of it has no bearing on us," he told The News via cellphone from San Antonio, where the Heat are set to open a three-games-in-three-nights road trip vs. the Rampage on Thursday. "We can't control it . . . Right now, we've got to win hockey games.

"Whatever (Calgary Flames CEO) Ken King and the mayor and all those other people want to do in their world, that's their business," he added.

"I'll have all kinds of thoughts when we're done, but it has no bearing on my life right now."

Given Ward's constant emphasis on sticking with the proper process day-to-day, it's no surprise that he prefers to defer the sentimentality until season's end.

"Whether I know where I'm going to live next year or whether I don't . . . I don't really care," he said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be a good man to the guys I'm with."

Heat forward Carter Bancks, who joined the team during the latter stages of its inaugural 2009-10 season, said that Tuesday's news caught him off-guard.

"We knew there were talks going on last year about potentially moving, but this was a little bit more of a surprise," he said. "I really enjoyed playing there. It's a great city, and I'm going to miss it, for sure."

Struggles at the box office throughout their time in Abbotsford brought about the Heat's departure, and Bancks acknowledged that from a player's perspective, it would have been nice to play in front of bigger crowds.

"Some days it was a little tough, not seeing a ton of people (in the stands)," he said. "But . . . there were a lot of positives in the situation as well.

"We've had some really loyal fans throughout the years who have come and cheered us on, and we've got to thank all those people in the city of Abbotsford. Everyone treated us really well, and we had a gorgeous facility."

Bancks echoed Ward in noting that the timing of the departure announcement is "nothing we can control," and said that the best way to close the book on the franchise's time in Abbotsford would be to win the Calder Cup.

"We're going to still show up and try and represent Abbotsford and our fans the best way we can," he said. "It would be really cool to have a really good (playoff) run here and end our time in Abbotsford on a high. That would be the ultimate way to go out."

WALTER UNLIKELY TO MOVE WITH FLAMES' AFFILIATE

Ryan Walter, who has served as Heat president since 2011, said that when the team moves at the end of the season, it's unlikely that he'll go with them.

"I think (wife) Jenny and I have to regroup and see what's next on the journey," he told The News on Tuesday. "We're very committed to being here in the Lower Mainland – our kids are here and our grandkids are here.

"Our goal is to fill the building for these playoff games, and we'll go from there."

Walter lauded the hard work of the Heat's front-office staff against long odds, and expressed pride in the team's level of off-ice community involvement in recent years.

"We're in a place where a group of us worked hard to make this work, and it culminated in today, so we're very disappointed," he said.

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