Everything you need to know about Calgary’s newest sports franchise, the Wranglers
Matrthew Demille, Contributor
The city of Calgary’s sports family expanded over the summer season, as they welcomed their third major hockey team and sixth major sports team within their city limits. The team, dubbed the “Calgary Wranglers,” are members of the American Hockey League (AHL) and are the top-minor league affiliation for the Calgary Flames.
Although new to the city, the Wranglers are no strangers to either the AHL or the Flames organization. The franchise, known previously as the Stockton Heat, simply relocated from their northern California residence to their new home in Calgary after the teams’ lease expired last season.
Before the rebrand, Stockton was the headquarters for the Flames minor league club for seven seasons. The move would mark the seventh different location the Flames’ minor league affiliate has called home since they were purchased in 1993, and just the third time they’ve been located in Canada — first being the Saint John Flames between 1993-2003 and eventually the Abbotsford Heat from 2009-2014.
The name change from the Heat to Wranglers is of some significance to the defunct Western Canadian Hockey League (now known as the Western Hockey League) team, also the Calgary Wranglers, who played out of the — now demolished — Stampede Corral for ten years. The new Wranglers’ logo also pays homage to their predecessors by keeping the original logo for their main crest, with a little more flare (no pun intended).
Going into the summer break, there was much speculation that the franchise would be moving closer to their NHL affiliate by the media and hockey fans alike. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, both Calgary and Stockton found themselves playing in an all-Canadian division for their 2020-21 season.
While shifting Stockton up to Calgary was meant to be a temporary solution to the COVID-19 restrictions, it’s clear the Flames noted many advantages to having their affiliate club within arm’s reach. No longer dealing with the border restrictions caused by the pandemic seemed to also be a selling point for the AHL franchise’s relocation. This also made it possible to have the clubs’ potential call-ups join the main team nearly instantaneously, as they are living in the same city.
The move also gives the Flames coaching staff the ability to keep a closer eye on their affiliates and scout their top prospects, in case they find themselves in need of extra bodies for their NHL squad.
The Wranglers are not the first minor league team to be moved north of the border as of late. The Vancouver Canucks’ minor league affiliate, the Abbotsford Canucks (formerly the Utica Comets), relocated near their parent organization in the season prior. Once Utica moved to Abbotsford, the Flames’ decision to move to Stockton to Calgary became imminent.
With the Wranglers moving up north, the Edmonton Oilers are now the only Canadian team that has yet to move their AHL club (Bakersfield Condors) out of the United States. A move that is already in the minds of the Oilers management and may be on the horizon.
Coming off a “Cinderella run” that saw the Stockton Heat reach the Western Conference Finals in the Calder Cup playoffs, the Wranglers team will be looking to repeat their results during their inaugural season in Calgary. The first chance for local hockey fans to watch the Wranglers in action comes on Oct. 16, when they kick off their season against the Coachella Valley Firebirds.