UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Pro hockey returned to the Mohawk Valley Friday, with the announcement of the Utica Comets to be the new AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. The team will share the Utica Memorial Auditorium and the five million dollars in renovations that are coming with its current primary tenant, the Utica College hockey team.
There's been concerns that having an AHL team at the Aud would force the Pioneers out of the place they've built up into the highest in attendance in all of Divison III hockey. However, both UC coach Gary Heenan and Rob Esche, former NHL goalie and now president of the Mohawk Valley Garden group who will manage the Comets, have a different take.
"When you're talking about luxury suites, new sound systems, light shows, let them unveil their plans," says Heenan. "It's pretty exciting stuff and it's only going to add to the fan experience here, it's only going to add to our player experience for sure and attracting better players."
"Let's face it, they've done a great job for years, over a decade and they've kept hockey alive and well," adds Esche. "To be able to bring state funding to that building, to be able to partner up with them, I think it's the best thing in the world, I really do."
It's game on for hockey fans in the Mohawk Valley and come the fall they'll have another option to check out the action on the ice.