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Esche Says Canucks Leaving Utica Isn’t A Story

Utica Comets mascot Audi (Jeff Monaski, WIBX)
Utica Comets mascot Audi (Jeff Monaski, WIBX)

Utica Comets President Rob Esche is putting to bed any concerns local fans have about losing their AHL team.

‘People run with stories…I don’t really think there’s much to this story’ Esche told WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning after going on a Vancouver radio station earlier this week to discuss the Canucks-Comets affiliation.

"They’re massively happy. You can only say that so many times" While speaking with the Canadian station, Esche was asked about the nearly 3,000 miles that separate the Comets from Vancouver. More specifically, that the NHL team may want to change affiliation to a closer geographic location so that their developing athletes would be closer to the team when called-up.

The ex-NHL goalie told WIBX he doesn’t want to speak publicly about Canucks’ or Comets’ ‘personal business’ but made clear that the parent franchise is more than content to have a team in Utica.

‘They’re massively happy. You can only say that so many times. And then, as soon as a little rumor comes up – it’s very tough to dignify every [rumor] by addressing it,’ Esche explained in regard to his hesitance to make statements in the media each time a report surfaces.

Rob Esche (Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino)
Rob Esche (Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino)

‘There’s two things to understand. Yes. Is it a long way to get players from Utica, NY to Vancouver? Of course, we’re not idiots,’ Esche said.

‘On the flip side of that, though, these players are in Utica, New York, close to all the other [AHL] teams. Eighty percent of the league is in the northeast. Which means they’re sleeping in their own beds, they’re not in hotels, or on buses and planes and all over the place. They have more time to practice, more time to develop, more time to compete in their own backyard.’

The Canucks-Comets contract extends through the 2018-19 season. Beyond that, Esche said the tremendous support from Utica fans has made the city an ideal location for the Canucks to possibly re-sign, or for another NHL team’s young talent to call home.

‘The fans own the brand and I’m the steward of that brand. But it’s really their brand. They’ve created a scenario where, whatever happens, it’ll get backfilled by another team.’

Regarding rumors that the New York Rangers are interested in moving their AHL team to Utica, Esche said he was ‘flattered’ to hear that the Blueshirts would express such an interest but dismissed the idea saying, ‘I haven’t had any talks with them.’

Full Interview:

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