Esche: Comets well prepared for life after Canucks

The Utica Comets have known this day would come when first partnering up with Vancouver Canucks, and have been ready for when it happened.

Posted: May 6, 2021 1:17 AM

UTICA, N.Y. - Saying goodbye is never easy, even if you've known the day would come for quite some time.

The Vancouver Canucks have announced its plans to move its AHL franchise west to Abbotsford, British Columbia, opting-out of an eight-year affiliation with the Utica Comets after this season.

It's a move that ends a long and prosperous partnership, but it's not one that took the Comets organization by surprise.

"Right out of the gate eight years ago we were always expecting this day to happen," said Comets President Rob Esche. "They let me know December 31st that they were going to be exercising that [opt-out] option, and they have that right to do."

Esche said that it was 'never a matter of if, but when' the Canucks would move their affiliate. Despite the two sides having a great working relationship, the geographical distance was a difficult obstacle over the years, especially this season amid the ongoing pandemic.

The original indications from the Vancouver organization was to be here in Utica for just a couple of years, but the support for the team from the fan base caused Vancouver to decide to develop their prospects here long-term.

Esche said that people within the Comets organization were so aware of the Canucks' intent to eventually relocate their prospects to the west coast, they even helped Vancouver research markets that could be potential landing spots, all while exploring their future options themselves.

"Through the eight years, it's not like we've been sitting around not preparing either," Esche said. "We've always balanced out who becomes available each year, and who doesn't."

Over the years, and especially since Vancouver's decision a few months ago to opt out became known within the AHL community, multiple NHL organizations have approached the Comets to discuss the possibility of entering an affiliation moving forward.

"It's a testament to the fans because the fan support drove a lot of teams to talk to us when Vancouver decided to exercise their option," he said. "It's going to be really exciting."

Unable to comment on exactly who will potentially be bringing their prospects to Utica in the immediate future, Esche did say that he is confident that the organization will remain an AHL affiliate to an NHL team.

Employees of the Comets and the Adirondack Bank Center are moving forward with plans for the 2021-22 AHL season.

Rumors have been swirling over the past month since it was revealed that Esche filed for a trademark of the name "Utica Devils" shortly before the New Jersey Devils announced they would be moving on from their affiliation with Binghamton.

However, Esche would not confirm that New Jersey will be coming to town and said there were many reasons for him filing for the trademark, citing the previous affiliation with the Devils from 1987-93.

"I tried getting the trademark years ago because I wanted to do kind of a throw back game about five years ago I think, but we never followed through with it," he said. "You get trademarks for a number of different reasons. One is to protect your own brand, or two, to make the path forward a little smoother and easier."

Esche also owns the trademark for the name "Utica Comets," with the Canucks already saying their new affiliate will have a new name and logo, and so there is the very real possibility that regardless of any new partnership, the Utica Comets name and brand will remain.

Regardless, in order for any of these potential moves to become official, they must get AHL Board of Governors approval.

The Board is meeting on Thursday at 1 p.m. to discuss many topics including this, and Esche said that more information regarding the immediate future of the Comets franchise can be expected after that meeting concludes.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2111162

Reported Deaths: 53597
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings28073410464
Queens2774519962
Suffolk2011393400
Nassau1837273176
Bronx1836646583
New York1383674505
Westchester1297062291
Erie896031809
Richmond750301840
Monroe690351111
Orange48330843
Rockland46958963
Onondaga38960677
Dutchess29478445
Albany24708356
Oneida22633516
Niagara20045374
Broome18630366
Saratoga15379168
Ulster13915257
Schenectady13207205
Rensselaer11232143
Putnam1062192
Chautauqua8957145
Chemung7772136
Oswego762692
Ontario740893
Steuben6957145
Sullivan667676
St. Lawrence664497
Cayuga633892
Jefferson614968
Wayne578370
Cattaraugus572391
Genesee5436124
Herkimer5191109
Clinton483733
Madison456489
Livingston452360
Fulton442391
Tompkins435052
Montgomery4254127
Columbia4065104
Cortland392763
Tioga383163
Warren366057
Wyoming358353
Allegany355887
Chenango350476
Otsego346347
Greene340379
Washington316255
Orleans312083
Lewis281036
Franklin256312
Delaware238538
Seneca201156
Schoharie169217
Essex159326
Yates117926
Schuyler108014
Hamilton3132
Unassigned9717
Out of NY0250
Utica
Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
Oneonta
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 60°
Herkimer
Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
Old Forge
Mostly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Senior Send-Off brought to you by Herkimer College
18 Facets of Summer Photo Contest brought to you by Herkimer Diamond Mines
Looking for work or looking to hire? Check out the WKTV Job Fair!
Alivana Ready for Summer Giveaway
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve