Vancouver Canucks unveil branding for new Abbotsford AHL team

In the midst of a congested off-season, the Vancouver Canucks have taken care of one piece of business — naming their new American Hockey League affiliate.

The club didn’t venture far in choosing the new moniker, opting to call the team the Abbotsford Canucks.

“To have this finally out, for the fans in Abbotsford and the Canucks organization, it’s a huge step for us. We’re excited about having our American league affiliate right in our backyard,” Abbotsford Canucks general manager Ryan Johnson said on a video call Wednesday.

“It’s a great step for our entire organization.”

The two teams will also share a green and blue colour scheme, with the Abbotsford Canucks adopting the “Johnny Canuck” logo previously used on occasion by the Vancouver squad. The image features a bearded lumberjack wearing overalls and skates and carrying a hockey stick.

The Abbotsford Canucks’ dark jersey will be primarily “field green” and its light jersey will be “mountain white.” Both will feature Johnny Canuck and sleeve stripes forming the letter A to represent Abbotsford.

Sharing a name with an AHL affiliate isn’t unique to the Canucks. Six other NHL clubs share brands with their farm teams, including the Boston (Providence) Bruins, Dallas (Texas) Stars, Minnesota (Iowa) Wild, New York (Bridgeport) Islanders, Ottawa (Belleville) Senators and Pittsburgh (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) Penguins.

‘A new identity for fans in the Fraser Valley to embrace’

Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini said in a statement Wednesday that the club was “thrilled” to unveil the new brand.

“The Abbotsford Canucks will be an extension of our history, and a new identity for fans in the Fraser Valley to embrace,” he said. “Today marks an important milestone. It brings us a big step closer to puck drop in the fall and an exciting inaugural season.”

The Canucks announced in May that they were relocating their AHL team from Utica, N.Y., to Abbotsford, located about 70 kilometres southeast of downtown Vancouver.

Abbotsford was previously home to the Abbotsford Heat, the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate from 2009 to 2014.

Moving the franchise has been complex, Johnson said. But he believes it will ultimately be a boon for the organization, with players on the AHL team pushing for spots on the NHL roster.

“A competitive environment makes for a strong organization,” he said. “It helps develop your prospects and it also helps keep you in a competitive environment if you face adversity or injuries that comes with a big club throughout the course of a season.”

Johnson has already navigated the Canucks’ AHL group through a complex season, with the franchise sharing last year’s Utica Comets team with the St. Louis Blues due to the pandemic.

“You can imagine how much of a challenge that would be just throwing staffs together, throwing players together,” he said.

The Comets finished fourth in the North Division with a 16-11-1 record. Johnson called it an “incredibly successful season at a very difficult time.”

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