UPDATE: Abbotsford Heat Contract Terminated

The City of Abbotsford has terminated its ten-year contract as the financial backer of the Calgary Flames affiliate in Abbotsford – the Abbotsford Heat – after five years of losses due to low attendance.

According to CKNW News, “Mayor Bruce Banman announced today the tenancy agreement with the American Hockey League team has been terminated, and the move is in the best financial interests of the city.

The City had to fork over $5.5 million to get the Heat to leave which equates roughly to the amount taxpayers have already paid the Flames and is estimated to be about half of what it would have cost taxpayers to keep subsidizing the team for another five years.

[excerpt] The Heat are an affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames.

The deal between the City and the team has long been criticized as a money loser for local taxpayers.

Flames CEO Ken King calls it a sad day for Abbotsford, while team President Ryan Walter was visibly upset with the news.

City expected to announce end to heat Contract
14/04/14 08:00
Officials are expected to announce this morning that the City of Abbotsford has chosen to end its money-losing contract with the Calgary Flames at the mid-point in the ten year deal.

There are several reports that the Abbotsford Heat will be moving to Glen Falls, New York. So far, nothing is known about what the City plans to do with the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC).

Local authorities and the small number of hockey fans in Abbotsford have hoped for years that a deal would be possible which would bring the Vancouver Canucks AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, yo Abbotsford because of the influx of Vancouver fans from the city whenever the Comets have played here.

The Aquilini family (owners of the Canucks) were in discussions with Abbotsford last year but decided to move the team to Utica. Various reports suggest the Comets are not fairing well (in terms of attendance) in Utica rekindling hopes that a deal may yet be possible.

The Abbotsford Heat have been had a tremendous record on the ice but never managed to attract enough fans to break even. Abbotsford taxpayers have covered the owners’ losses which have risen to nearly $5.5 million over the first five years of a ten-year contract.

UPDATE: City Nixed Heat Contract – Herald
Yesterday’s News as it evolved -04/14/22:02 The Calgary Herald is reporting that the City of Abbotsford will announce Tuesday it has cancelled the contract with the Calgary Flames, known locally as George Peary’s Deal“George Peary’s Deal after the mayor who signed and made fun of his critics saying they were hard to take seriously.

Peary’s deal has seen the Abbotsford taxpayer cover the losses of the Abbotsford Heat for the last five years on top of the costs of paying Global Spectrum to manage the empty arena and the interest on the money borrowed to build it.

[excerpt] The City of Abbotsford, according to Global BC, is terminating its contract with the Heat, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Flames. Playing out of the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre, the Heat ranks 29th out of 30 teams in AHL attendance.

This is the fifth year of a 10-year pact between the city and the Flames. Abbotsford taxpayers shelled out more than $5 million over the first four years as part of the arrangement.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks, despite having Abbotsford in their backyard, have no immediate plans to relocate their farm club to the locale, the Vancouver Province reported.

Heat Moving Out of Fraser Valley – CTV
04/14/20:36 CTV News is now reporting that sources have told them that the Abbotsford heat are leaving Abbotsford.

[excerpt] The Abbotsford Heat hockey team that’s cost taxpayers millions of dollars in subsidies is being moved out of the Fraser Valley, sources tell CTV News.

Abbotsford city officials are expected to announce the Calgary Flames farm team is out at a press conference Tuesday morning.

UPDATE: Heat Leaving For Glen Falls – Global
04/14/14 19:22 Global News is reporting it has been told the Abbotsford heat are leaving the City to move to Glen Falls, New York.

[excerpt] Global News has learned major changes are on the way for the Abbotsford Heat hockey team and its contentious relationship with taxpayers.

Sources tell us the City of Abbotsford has terminated their contract with the Abbotsford Heat, but whether that means there will be a new contract or the team will be moving remains to be seen.

Flames/ City Announcement Tuesday At AESC
04/14/14 – 18:08
The City of Abbotsford announced this afternoon is holding a media conference Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 beginning at 10 a.m. at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC). The announcement stated the press conference will introduce a comprehensive new strategic direction for the community facility.

Speakers will include:

  • Mayor Bruce Banman on behalf of Abbotsford City Council;
  • Ken King, Chief Executive Officer, Calgary Flames;
  • Dean Clark, Regional Vice President, Global Spectrum;
  • Ryan Walter, President, Abbotsford Heat, American Hockey League.


Location: AESC 33800 King Road, Abbotsford, BC
Time: 9:40 a.m. – Media Accreditation at front entrance
10:00 a.m. – News Conference
Date: Tuesday April 15, 2014

Formal remarks will be followed by full media availability and photo opportunities.


What Happened?

Because the politicians and bureaucrats at City Hall were so blinded by their own enthusiasm and so immune to the loud and consistent criticism from many citizens and organizations, they believe their own public relations.

Promising profits for the taxpayer; making fun of their critics; accusing citizens who questioned their edicts as ‘naysayers,’ Abbotsford’s political class, with the help of its (then) two newspapers, simply ignored the realities despite proof, from day one, that their plans had gone terribly wrong.

The AESC was built late and over budget. The taxpayers have, in effect, funded the losses of the Calgary Flames from the start; Global Spectrum, a Philadelphia arena management company, has not managed to make a profit since the AESC opened (and taxpayers have covered the losses while paying Global Spectrum) … in essence, everything the ‘naysayers warned the City about has happened … in spades.


George Peary’s Deal

Former Mayor George Peary

Former Mayor George Peary

George Peary’s Deal whereby Abbotsford taxpayers cover the annual losses of the Calgary Flames (owners of the Abbotsford Heat together with a local ownership group). Peary’s deal has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars as the Abbotsford Heat, despite great performances on the ice, have never been able to attract the crowds Councillor John Smith, former Councillor Bruce Beck and hotelier and part owner of the Heat Lane Sweeting promised when the idea was being sold to voters and taxpayers.

Councillor John Smith

Councillor John Smith

Abbotsford was described as a ‘Hockey Mad’ town and ever since the empty arenas and abysmal attendance politicians and Chamber of Commerce executive members who supported the enormous loss of money have blamed it all on Abbotsford Today and the Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA) for doubting questioning their lack of a business plan, proper surveys or studies, lack of a financial plan and no anchor tenant.

As he loves to tell everybody, before he learned to spend his friends’ and neighbours’ money John Smith was a banker.

Recent rumours reported first on Abbotsford Today would suggest the Heat may be announcing that they will be moving the team to Glen Falls, New York, where, according to media reports in New York, the City of Glen Falls may be even more desperate than the City of Abbotsford to get a money-losing hockey team.

Why The AHL Made No Sense In Abbotsford

The reason opponents to Plan A and George Peary’s Deal were so adamant about the economic dangers was that, with no anchor tenant for the building, they argued, the City would have to go begging for any tea it could find from anywhere in North America, and, they argued, the City would be in a terrible negotiating position in any deal.

That’s what happened.

The map below shows the North American cities in which the AHL teams are located. It makes no sense for all of those teams to agree to have Abbotsford join the game if they are going to have to travel all the way across the continent just to play here.

So; the AHL insisted Abbotsford cover the travel costs of the visiting teams. That put the City at a big disadvantage and further increased the pressure on politicians to live up to Lane Sweeting’s claim that we were a ‘hockey mad’ town.

Apparently not.


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