(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) The Utica Comets were so close to capturing their first Calder Cup in just their second season in upstate New York, but they were run over in five games by the mighty Manchester Monarchs. So where do the Comets go from here? During this off-season, Utica has lost both of its starting goaltenders from 2013-14 — Jacob Markstrom will be in Vancouver, Joacim Eriksson left for Europe — and both of its top scorers. Cal O’Reilly, who led the team with 61 points, is off to Buffalo and Brandon DeFazio landed a deal with Boston. Coming in this year, though, the Comets have snagged Blair Jones, who notched 9 goals, 21 points in 33 AHL games in 2014-15. That’s a nice addition for the club. Plus, there’s always the youth talent to consider. Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Cole Cassels, Dane Fox and Alexandre Grenier are all a year older. For Cassels and Fox, this will be their first taste of the AHL, but they’ve got the ability to contribute enough to replace the losses the Comets have suffered. But that still leaves the goaltending issue. In 2014-15, Markstrom was nothing short of incredible, posting a 1.88 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. It’s tough to find a goaltender to replace that kind of puck-stopping in the AHL, but Richard Bachman will have to give it a shot. This past season Bachman posted a 2.38 GAA and .918 SP, but maybe he sees a bump from the quality of players in front of him in Utica. If the Comets want to get back to the Calder Cup final, Bachman might be the key.
Team History: The Utica Comets may have only come into the AHL, but the franchise’s history stretches back all the way to the AHL’s inception in 1936. Back then, the club was located in Springfield, Mass., and known as the Indians. Outside of a brief exit to Syracuse from 1951-54 and renaming to the Kings from 1967-74, the Indians were a staple of the AHL until 1994. Over those 58 seasons, the franchise won seven Calder Cups, six division titles and three regular season championships. Owned by the legendary Eddie Shore, the franchise saw a number of players go on to success after their time in Springfield. Among some of the most notable names are Don Cherry, Bruce Boudreau, Brian Kilrea and Charlie Simmer. In 1994, the franchise was purchased and moved to Worcester, Mass., where they would change their name to the IceCats. The top affiliate of the Blues and Islanders during their days in Worcester, the IceCats would never find the incredible success that the franchise did in Springfield, failing to ever advance to the third round of the post-season in 11 years. After the franchise was sold to the Blues during the 2000-01 season, St. Louis flipped the club to the owners of their former ECHL club, the Peoria Rivermen, in 2004. By 2005-06, the club was shifted to Peoria, Ill., where they remained St. Louis’ top affiliate for eight seasons before the club was purchased by the Vancouver Canucks and moved to Utica in time for the 2013-14 season.
Logo History: The Springfield moniker was racially insensitive and the only real reprieve the franchise had from logos that look absolutely horrible in hindsight was the brief period in which the club was known as the Kings. There was also a short period, when affiliated with the Chicago, when the logo was the then-Black Hawks logo inside a red circle.
Thankfully, the move to Worcester produced one of the best logos the franchise has seen. The first two attempts weren’t the greatest, but in the IceCats’ case, the third time was absolutely the charm. The snarling cat was a great, symmetrical logo and looked great even without having ties to the Blues. Sadly, the logo was short-lived and was only used for three seasons.
The 2005 move to Peoria brought about the Rivermen logo, with the captain holding a ship’s steering wheel. There are things about the logo that are fantastic: the center of the wheel having the Peoria skyline, the captain chewing a puck and that he’s wearing a hockey glove are all nice touches.
Current Logo: The Comets name pays tribute to teams that had previously played in the region and the use of the puck as the primary symbol actually works well. In many cases, when teams adopt their affiliate’s color scheme they fail to utilize it well, but the Comets design does a great job of making the green pop and the color really stands out giving Utica its own unique feel. The use of a more traditional shield is also nice and something few teams in the AHL do. It gives the logo a classic feel even though it’s only entering its third season.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)