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Canucks move AHL operations to New York; Utica Comets to begin play next season

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks are moving their American Hockey League operations to Utica, N.Y.

The Canucks announced they have reached an affiliation agreement with Utica and will move the recently purchased Peoria Rivermen there. The Utica Comets will begin play at the Utica Memorial Auditorium starting next season.

The Canucks were affiliated with the independently owned Chicago Wolves before purchasing the Rivermen from the St. Louis Blues last month. St. Louis then announced that the Wolves would serve as the Blues' top minor-league affiliate.

The Rivermen will be managed by Mohawk Valley Garden, a group led by former NHL goaltender Robert Esche and long-time AHL owner and executive Frank DuRoss.

The city of Utica has a history with the American Hockey League. The New Jersey Devils' affiliate played there from 1987 to 1993.

It is also the former home of the Mohawk Valley Stars (Atlantic Coast Hockey League), the Utica Bulldogs (United Hockey League), Utica Blizzard (United Hockey League), Mohawk Valley Prowlers (United Hockey League) and the Mohawk Valley IceCats (North Eastern Hockey League).

"We look forward to a new AHL affiliation and the development of our prospects in Utica, New York,”Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement. "There was a strong interest in bringing an AHL team back to Utica and a real commitment to provide a positive environment for the growth and success of players in the Canucks system."

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