There will be five American Hockey League franchises in California for the start of the 2015-16 season to form a new Pacific Division, league president David Andrews announced Thursday.
The announcement was made in San Jose, where the Worchester Sharks will move to and play at SAP Center along with their parent club, the San Jose Sharks.
"We are thrilled to bring the AHL to California, and continue the growth of the game on the West Coast," Andrews said.
Affiliates for the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings will join the Sharks in California. Anaheim's affiliate will be in San Diego. Calgary's affiliate will move to Stockton. Edmonton's affiliate will play in Bakersfield. Los Angeles' AHL and ECHL affiliates will effectively switch leagues, with Ontario joining the AHL and Manchester moving into the ECHL.
For Anaheim, Calgary, Los Angeles and San Jose, this will give those teams a chance to have their affiliates much closer to home, an advantage many Eastern Conference teams have enjoyed when call-ups are needed.
For Edmonton, it will mean having its AHL team in much closer proximity to other teams in the league to reduce costs and travel times. The only teams close to Oklahoma City, Edmonton's current affiliate, are in Austin, Texas, and San Antonio.
"This is a wonderful growth opportunity for the game of hockey in the Western region and it will have a tremendous impact for years to come," Luc Robitaille, president of business operations for the Los Angeles Kings, said. "I want to commend each of the participating clubs, along with Dave Andrews, Bill Daly and Gary Bettman, for their commitment, patience and willingness to work through a very challenging but worthwhile process in order to get to this day."
Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles and San Jose own their current affiliates. Anaheim will purchase the Norfolk Admirals and move them to San Diego. Andrews said the AHL Board of Governors will approve the full division format and schedule for 2015-16 at a later date.
“We know that the players are going to benefit from the proximity of the teams," Oilers president Kevin Lowe said. "This is going to enhance development.”