As a Canucks fan living in California’s North Bay, my best chance to see the team is by making the two hour drive to San Jose. On my way down to the SAP Center, I always take the Richmond Bay Bridge and go through Oakland. The Oakland route isn’t nearly as scenic as going through San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, but it saves plenty of time.
One of the landmarks I always pass is the Oracle Arena, home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. The Oracle was originally built back in 1966 to house the Warriors and the Bay Area’s first NHL team, the California Seals. The Seals never really took off in Oakland, and eventually moved to Cleveland in 1976. Golden State has had their own troubles over the years, but are now having their best success in franchise history. Their soaring popularity has also helped the team lobby to get a new, state-of-the-art arena to replace the 51 year-old Oracle.
When the Warriors move to the San Francisco-based Chase Center in 2019, it’ll leave the Oracle without a tenant for the first time in the arena’s history. Meanwhile, hockey’s popularity in California has been growing to an all-time high. The American Hockey League took full advantage in 2015, relocating five new teams closer to their NHL affiliates. In Northern California, the San Jose Sharks share the SAP Center with their own farm team, the San Jose Barracuda, while the Calgary Flames moved their franchise to Stockton and named them the Heat.
The Canucks were the lone Pacific Division team not part of the AHL’s Western expansion. The Canucks affiliates, the Utica Comets, remain across the continent in New York. While the Comets’ popularity in Utica is very impressive, the distance called up prospects have to travel doesn’t make a lot of sense for Vancouver.
But here’s a thought; what if the Canucks moved their AHL team to the Oracle in Oakland?
The Benefits of Oakland
First of all, it would cut down plenty of travel time. Players getting called up or sent down would now only need to take a two hour flight, compared to the seven hour journey Utica players take from nearby Buffalo. The team also be on the same time zone as Vancouver, which would help prevent extra jet lag.
With the Warriors moving to San Francisco and the Raiders possibly moving out the Bay Area entirely, the team could potentially be the only sports draw in Oakland from October all the way to April when the Athletics’ season begins. The location would also draw hockey fans from the North Bay and SF who don’t want to make the high traffic journey out to San Jose to see the Sharks and Barracuda or Stockton to watch the Heat.
While the Oracle might not be suitable for an NBA team anymore, it’s more than perfect for an AHL team. The arena seats approximately 17,200 for hockey, which could of course be scaled back based on the team’s popularity. There’s even a practice facility ready to go with the downtown based Oakland Ice Center.
As for a team name, there’s no better choice than the Oakland Seals. The original NHL team even wore green and blue, making them a perfect fit for the Canucks while also tapping into the nostalgia of the old franchise.
While this idea is definitely a long shot, it’s certainly one the Canucks should consider. Leaving a city with as much passion for the game as Utica would be a big risk, but I believe it would be one worth taking.
Would you get behind the Canucks moving their AHL team to Oakland? Leave a comment below.