Pete Dougherty of the Albany Times Union broke major news for the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate earlier today. Sources have reported to the paper that the Albany Devils are set to move to Binghamton, New York next season. According to the article, the move is expected to be approved by the American Hockey League officials this weekend during the AHL All-Star weekend.
Dougherty’s article focuses on the main driver for this move: the business the A-Devils have done at the Times Union Center. Albany Devils attendance has been near or at the bottom of the AHL despite the team playing much better in the last few seasons. Albany has not been in the upper-half of the AHL in average attendance since the 1995-1996 season. Suffice it to say, AHL hockey has not been a draw in New York’s capital city. While New Jersey has opted out of contracts with the Times Union Center in the past, the team has reconciled a new deal before. That is not the case today. As Dougherty suggested in the article, New Jersey’s owners appear to have had enough with low attendance and losing money in Albany. With the Binghamton offering staff for day-to-day operations plus $2 million, that appears to be enough incentive to make the move. It looks like a better deal and a smaller crowd in a smaller arena would look better than a small crowd in a big arena.
It’s also still local. While it’s not as close and direct as Albany, Binghamton is within driving distance of Newark for any call ups and demoted players. So the minor league team would still be local. Further, the Devils would be taking the spot currently held by the Binghamton Senators, who are moving to Belleville, Ontario next season. According to HockeyDB, the Senators have drawn around 3,500 consistently on average for the last decade. If maintained, then that would be at least a small improvement over how many Albany have drawn on average in the last four seasons. Put this all together and it’s clear to see why the A-Devs are about to become the B-Devs (or the Bingo Devs).
A part of me does hold out hope that this is all a means to drive a re-negotiated contract with the Times Union Center. The minor league affiliate has had a lot of history in Albany and many past and current New Jersey Devils cut their teeth in the capital district. Dougherty’s article noted that the arena is looking for a pro sports tenant, but current negotiations are not with a hockey team. So it looks like this will be the end for minor league hockey in Albany for the forseeable future. There are many dedicated fans like Tracey Lake of Thoughts Inside the Box, who understandably are stunned and unhappy that their favorite team is moving and that there won’t be a replacement. As Tracey just wrote about this news, if you’re a supporter of a minor league team, then it is critical to show up. Unfortunately for the A-Devs supporters, there weren’t enough of them - and it irks me as a Devils fan to have to write that.
Unfortunately, it looks like this will be the last season for the Albany Devils as they are now. If you have the chance, then please go see them. They’re still a good team like last season. They are currently first in the North Division with a record of 24-16-1-1. You can check out John Quenneville, Joseph Blandisi, Blake Pietila, Blake Coleman, Vojtech Mozik, Yohann Auvitu (for now), and Ken Appleby among others put in good work for the team. Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Don’t let that be the case with Albany.
What’s your reaction to this news? Do you think New Jersey is smart for moving to Binghamton? Will the team draw more people there? Will you go to an Albany game now if you’re able to do so? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the planned move in the comments. Thank you for reading.