(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.) Maybe the hubbub surrounding AHL hockey in Stockton can help fans forgive the Heat for what could be a trying 2015-16 season. One of six new teams in the league for the 2015-16 season, the Heat are coming off of a single, disappointing season playing in Glens Falls, N.Y., as the Adirondack Flames. The Flames were led largely by their rookie talent, many of whom will be back in 2015-16. Where they might be better is on the blueline, where they could have Calgary prospects Keegan Kanzig — all 6-foot-6, 243 pounds of him — and Oliver Kylington join them. Other prospects set to join the Heat in 2015-16 include Austin Carroll, Morgan Klimchuk, Louick Marcotte and Hunter Smith. There weren’t many big name additions to the club, however. The NHL’s Flames nabbed center Derek Grant in free agency and the center, who scored 21 goals and 38 points for the Binghamton Senators in 2014-15, will help add some offensive firepower. There’s also 27-year-old defenseman Jakub Nakladal, who was pursued by several teams but decided to sign with Calgary and could provide the Heat with a top-four defenseman. But the only other real additions have been Mitchell Heard, who will play a third- or fourth-line role in Stockton, and netminder Kent Simpson, who will have to fight for time behind Jon Gillies and Joni Ortio.
Team History: Few franchises have been as nomadic as the Heat, as Stockton will be the eighth landing spot for the team and sixth since the 2002-03 season. Suffice to say the team is no stranger to moving vans. Before they were on the move what seems like every other season, however, the club did have some stability. Beginning in 1977 as the Maine Mariners, the club played out of Portland for a decade before a shift in affiliation from the Flyers to the Devils saw the club uprooted and moved to upstate New York, where they would play six seasons as the Utica Devils. Following the 1992-93 season, however, the club was outright purchased by the Calgary Flames who chose to move the club to Saint John, N.B., where the team began play as the AHL’s Flames. For a decade, the team would compete out of New Brunswick and would finally ascend to the top of the league in 2000-01. Led by Marty Murray, Rico Fata and David Roche, the Flames would capture their first Calder Cup as Calgary’s affiliate. Just two years later, however, the franchise suspended operations and remained dormant for two full years, surfacing again in 2005-06 to become the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. That’s when the consistent relocations began. The team spent two seasons in Omaha, two in Quad City, five in Abbotsford and one in Adirondack before finally coming to its current resting spot in Stockton. Over that span, the club failed to recapture their success and has been an on-again, off-again playoff team for the past decade. The move to Stockton is the beginning of a major shift for the AHL, as the league has created a Pacific Division to house several teams out West, including five in California. Paul Evans is the franchise’s all-time leader in every category, having scored 164 goals, 296 assists and 460 points over seven seasons with the Maine Mariners. As the Flames affiliate, however, the all-time leader is Marty Murray, with 152 assists and 230 points. Ladislav Kohn is the goals leader with 89, but Murray is a close second with 78.
Logo History: Let’s forget about the Maine Mariners and Utica Devils, because both have been covered previously. Instead, let’s focus on the six logos that have come throughout the Flames’ tenure owning the nomadic AHL franchise. When they first put down roots in Saint John, the logo was awful. There was nothing to it, it looked amateurish and it’s far from shocking that it didn’t make it more than four seasons before a change was made. When that change was made, the introduction of the dragon was a great way to tie in the Flames name without being so on-the-nose as to repurpose the NHL logo. The dragon was a clever logo and, really, the logo only got more clever following the club’s move to Omaha.
In Omaga, the club was known as the Knights. The Knights name came from a philanthropic organization in Nebraska, but the logo’s use of the Flames’ signature tails on the backside of the helmet is brilliant. Not to mention one could even argue there’s a connection from Saint John to Omaha, what with a dragon logo leading into a knight. It’s much more likely that’s a coincidence, though.
Leaving Omaha led to arguably the most disappointing logo since the original Saint John crest, however. The Quad City logo was uninspired and a simple ‘QC’ overlapping with both letters carrying the Flames logo’s signature style. After two seasons, when the team moved to Abbotsford and the name was again changed, they went with a more simply word mark. Again, not the franchise’s best effort. But that does lead us to Adirondack. For the single season in Glens Falls, the team used a classic mark from the Flames history — the Atlanta Flames logo — as their insignia for the 2014-15 season. Using a historical Flames logo, and one that is so simple and effective, was a clever way to give a tip of the cap to the big club and pay tribute to the past of the organization. With the move to Stockton, however, the Atlanta/Adirondack Flames logo lasted only one season.
Current Logo: Stockton’s logo is the first time the franchise is going with a roundel as the primary mark. Using circular logos has become all the rage throughout pro hockey, as team’s that have never used them before, such the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues, have introduced roundels to jerseys in the past several years. Following the trend is what hurts Stockton most, because the rest of the logo is actually quite appealing. Every color stands out, the logo strays from the phoned-in Flames style ’S’, and the duel ’S’s look much like those found at the base of the former Atlanta Flames logo. Heat, like Wild or Crunch, doesn’t give the designers much to work with, but the group in Stockton put forward a good effort.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)