Good news has come out of the former Massachusetts exclave, as the Pirates have apparently worked a deal to stay in Portland, ME. The team had been reported to be in talks with the folks in Albany, NY to relocate there, but, in a Lemieuxesque working of the system, they were able to come to terms with the CCCC. The Sabres have also re-upped their affiliation with the club, which should give them some stability of the future. While it may be easy at this point to claim Albany as "Kansas City of the AHL", there's still a legitimate shot they will get a River Rats replacement, and it hits close to home as well: Lowell.
The Times Union reports that the Lowell Devils are next on the docket for the Times Union Center's AHL pursuit. The Devils had a 13 season affiliation with the Rats before buying the fomer Lock Monsters. Lowell's attendance has been unequivocally dismal, more than 1,000 per-night less than 2nd lowest attended (but division stomping) Worcester. Plus, the Tsongas
Arena Center is now fully owned and operated by UMass Lowell and no longer by the City of Lowell, who had much more impetus in keeping the AHL for both civic pride and financial reasons (As an aside - the River Hawks are currently the only Hockey East team to share their building with a pro outfit). The lease on the arena runs out this year, and with it might be the suprising 12 year run of hockey in Middlesex County.
Out west, AHL homers the Springfield Falcons appear to be getting some much needed stability in the form of a new affiliate to replace the Oilers, who are getting a new team in Oklahoma City. The Columbus Blue Jackets are reported to be the Falcons' new partner. After several months of uncertainty and the prospects of playing a season without affiliation, it's very good to see that the Falcons will be around for a while longer, at least.
So the AHL scene in the region gets a bit clearer for next season, save for some rumors regarding Howard Baldwin and the Wolf Pack...but I'll cover that only if anyting comes of it. While Lowell may soon disappear off the radar, there will still be plenty of local minor league hockey to go around. As The Zambonis sing, "Go to a game, support your team, and while you're there you buy ice cream, and let 'em know you care."
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