The Colorado Avalanche has always been a franchise who has had their AHL affiliates located 2 time zones away from Denver and near sea level:
Cornwall Aces (Cornwall, Ontario – Elevation: 175 feet) ’95-‘96
Hershey Bears (Hershey, Pennsylvania – Elevation: 410 feet) ’96-‘04
Lowell Lock Monsters (Lowell, Massachusetts – Elevation: 184 feet) ’04-‘06
Albany River Rats (Albany, New York – Elevation: 324 feet) ’06-‘07
Lake Erie Monsters (Cleveland, Ohio– Elevation: 653 feet) ’07-current
Now, I write this with all apologies to the very loyal and awesome Lake Erie Monsters fans of the Colorado Avalanche: What is the logic of a having your AHL team located at sea level when your NHL club is located over a mile high above it?! It would be different if it were the other way around, but it’s not. With all of the injury woes and personnel shifts that have occurred under Joe Sacco it seems to be adding an unneeded physical toll on players (which could be contributing to injuries) to not only have to endure the two hour plus plane flight but to adjust to the high altitude of Colorado. Having our affiliate in Lake Erie seems to be giving our team a disadvantage. In the good ol' days before the big mean salary cap was put in place, a time when the Avalanche didn't have to rely on its farm system as much; it really didn't matter if the AHL team was in Cornwall, ON or Cornwall, England. However with the new NHL, the Avalanche has had to rely on its AHL teams a lot more.
I propose that the Avalanche consider a local solution to the problem. Quite simply, the Avalanche should move its AHL affiliate to the recently built Broomfield Event Center now known as the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado. In 2009, KSE purchased this hockey ready facility that hosted the CHL’s Rocky Mountain Rage for 3 seasons. With a modest capacity of 6,000 plus for hockey, the facility would be reasonable to maintain and with Broomfield only 30 miles or so northwest of Denver, the players will not have to spend so much time traveling. Plus Broomfield is even higher in elevation than Denver at 5,400 feet, which would give our players the advantage of playing and training at high altitude even at the AHL level which eliminates the adjustment period between sea level and altitude that the current players have to go through.
Recently the Dallas Stars established their AHL affiliate in Austin, Texas called the Texas Stars who play in an arena with a similar capacity known as the Cedar Park Center which holds 6,500 plus. The Avalanche should use this as an example of how moving the affiliation closer to home can work. Crossing the sports boundaries, the Colorado Rockies of the MLB has enjoyed the convenience of having their AAA affiliate located in Colorado Springs (Sky Sox).
Last but not least I think it’s important for the fans of the Avalanche to have the chance to follow the careers of players as they go from the AHL to the NHL. I think having the team nearby will give fans the opportunity to bond with up and coming players and for the players to bond with the fans.
So if KSE ever decides to establish an AHL team in the 1stBank Center I for one am voting for the Denver Grizzlies as the team name. What do you all think about this prospect?