The American Hockey League’s California migration became official Thursday. The Kings will shift their top minor-league team from Manchester, N.H., to Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario and the Ducks will move theirs from Norfolk, Va., to Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.
The AHL will create a new Pacific Division for five teams in the NHL’s seven-team Pacific Division for 2015-16, offering the clubs greater access to their top prospects while cutting costs and travel time and also enhancing marketing opportunities.
In addition to the Kings and Ducks, the Sharks will move their top affiliate from Worcester, Mass., to the SAP Center in San Jose, the Calgary Flames will move their team from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Stockton and the Edmonton Oilers will move their team from Oklahoma City to Bakersfield.
Two other teams in the Pacific Division, the Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks, will keep their affiliates in Portland, Me., and Utica, N.Y., respectively, for the time being. It’s possible they could join the westward migration at a later date.
The moves were announced during a press conference in San Jose, where the Sharks’ minor-league team is expected to make its temporary home while another site is selected. Fresno and Sacramento are the cities rumored to be the permanent location.
“To borrow a word from the recently retired Teemu Selanne, it’s an unbelievable day for California hockey, for Anaheim and the organization and the city of San Diego,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said. “This is a dream come true.”
Luc Robitaille, Kings president of business operations, praised the spirit of cooperation among the five teams to get the deal presented and approved by the AHL during its board of governors meetings over the weekend.
“It was a true team effort,” Robitaille said. “For the growth of hockey, it’s a tremendous thing for California. Five (AHL) teams will be playing on the West Coast now. Fans can see players who are one phone call away from the NHL now. It’s going to be a lot of fun now.”
The Kings said they would announce further details Friday.
The Reign, which will play out its ECHL season in Ontario, will move to Manchester, N.H., for next season.