Tuesday the American Hockey League Board of Governors conditionally approved transfer of ownership of the the Springfield Falcons AHL franchise to the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes, as well as the relocation of that franchise from Springfield, Mass., to Tucson, Ariz., beginning with the 2016-17 season.
Once all conditions of the transaction are met, the relocated AHL franchise will begin play this fall at the Tucson Convention Center Arena.
The trend moving top affiliate teams westward began last season when Ontario (Los Angeles), Bakersfield (Edmonton), San Diego (Anaheim), Stockton (Calgary), and San Jose (San Jose) created the Pacific division. The moves were created when NHL franchises located west found it difficult to recall players across the country on short notice with flight and travel issues. While the rest of the league plays 76 games, the Pacific division teams play 68. [Note: Pacific teams Texas and San Antonio played 76 games]. To balance the standings throughout the league, the AHL went to standings based on winning percentage instead of points earned.
The Falcons completed their first season as an affiliate of the Coyotes. Previously, they were affiliated with Columbus for five seasons but made an affiliate switch closer to home last summer by moving their prospects to Cleveland with the Lake Erie Monsters.
The Falcons as a whole has struggled on the ice no matter who they were affiliated with. They’ve made the playoffs three times over the last 16 seasons including two division titles won in 2013 and 2014.
The Springfield market could receive a team next season because the Board of Governors are also currently reviewing an application for the transfer of ownership and relocation of the Portland Pirates AHL franchise from Maine, to Springfield for next season. A decision on that request is expected to come down within two weeks.