It has been a pretty crazy weekend when it comes to the future of the Binghamton Senators and their parent team, the Ottawa Senators. For months, the idea has been that Ottawa would relocate their AHL team to Belleville, Ontario in the near future to bring the AHL club closer to their NHL parent by about 100 miles. With the Binghamton/Ottawa relationship lasting until 2018-19, it seemed just like wild speculation.
That’s the day that things went topsy-turvy for everyone as the Ottawa Citizen reported that Broome County, New York officials were preparing for the Senators to leave, but also stated that during the meeting with AHL regarding the team move, the AHL agreed there would be hockey in Binghamton for the area when the Senators move out.
Before speculating what will happen in Binghamton, let’s tackle the Belleville situation first. After the 2014-15 season, the Belleville area lost their OHL Bulls after Michael Andlauer bought the Bulls and relocated them to Hamilton after he sold the AHL Bulldogs to the Montreal Canadiens who, in turn, moved them to St. John’s, Newfoundland (which they will move to Laval, Quebec for the 2017-18 season, but that’s another story entirely).
One of the hurdles that Belleville will have to face is the renovations to Yardman Arena. The arena was opened in 1978 and has a capacity of 3,257 for their almost Olympic-sized rink (199.5-feet by 99.5-feet). This would put their capacity at the lowest in the AHL at almost 600 less seats than the Utica Memorial Auditorium. On top of possibly expanding the seating and definitely fixing the ice dimensions, the rink technology and other upgrades will need to be made in order for the AHL Board of Governors to approve the rink as AHL compliant.
For the future of Binghamton, that’s anyone’s guess. With the thought being another NHL team will inhabit that area quickly makes people search online for what teams have affiliation agreements coming up and what would be the best bet for the area. Many would instantly go to the Rangers, who had their AHL team in Binghamton from 1990 until 1997 and have only a one-year agreement with the XL Center in Hartford left. However, the strongest rumor for the Rangers is that they will move their AHL affiliate to Bridgeport and the Islanders moving their AHL affiliate to the newly redone Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Granted, if that doesn’t happen soon enough, Binghamton could be the last resort for the Rangers– though Hartford being closer to New York City than Binghamton may throw a wrench into that.
Some believe that the Devils will move to Binghamton, though it is almost equidistant from where they have their AHL team in Albany. Also, the Devils have an agreement with the Times Union Center in Albany through the 2018-19 season— something that will create more hang-ups for the AHL in trying to put someone in that arena akin to what they’re doing with Binghamton. Outside of those possibilities, there doesn’t seem to be any other options aside from Las Vegas, who will most likely stay in the western US for obvious reasons. No clue what the AHL has up their sleeves, but there doesn’t seem to be many possibilities to fill the void that the Senators will leave in Binghamton.
With sports teams being the biggest copycat entities in the world, this move from Binghamton shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The trend of teams wanting their prospects closer is alive and well even if the decisions seem a little screwy in moving from a steady market to a new one. However, the AHL deserves credit for being open to more markets, especially Canadian ones.
What the future holds for Binghamton depends on what the AHL can do to wrangle a NHL team to go into that area when they have their AHL affiliations already in close proximity. Perhaps the ECHL is the future for Binghamton if the AHL doesn’t work out, but you can bet that the city of Binghamton and Broome County officials will fight tooth and nail and do all they can to keep the AHL in Binghamton.