Abbotsford’s new American Hockey League team finally has a logo and a colour scheme, and Ryan Johnson is one step closer to being able to focus on hockey.
The general manager of the Abbotsford Canucks talked to media in a Zoom conference Wednesday (July 14), after the team revealed its Johnny Canuck logo and blue/green/white colours to the world through social media.
Johnson said it’s been a chaotic time moving from Utica, NY to the west coast, and it’s nice to check an item off the to-do list.
“Usually there’s a little bit of downtime at the end of a season, but transitioning an entire organization from upstate New York out to the Fraser Valley has created its challenges,” Johnson said.
At the same time that Johnson has been up to his eyeballs in staffing and building decisions, he’s also had a team to build.
The National Hockey League draft is coming up on July 23 and 24, and NHL free agency begins July 28. The expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken is July 21 and Johnson is already sifting through the list of minor-pro free agents.
There are, he said, a lot of moving parts.
“But everyone’s extremely excited about all of it,” he added.
One of the big questions around the Abbotsford Canucks is travel, and Johnson addressed that.
Having Vancouver Canucks prospects so close to home is good for the fans, but is it good for the players if travel time cuts in to development time?
“We’ve had years in Utica where we had anywhere from a dozen to 15 hotel nights the entire season,” Johnson said. “But within that, because of our proximity to other teams, we did end up with a lot of three-games-in-three-days scenarios, traveling three or four hours throughout the night.
“So while we’re going to have more overall travel, I think we’ll have less of a grind schedule wise.”
Johnson also noted a 68 game schedule (down from 76 in prior years) will help.
“My first look at the schedule and what it could look like, it’s not as daunting as I thought it may be,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll lose as much practice time as I anticipated, which to me is as important as anything in the American Hockey League.”
Johnson also talked about Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who should be in Abbotsford a lot in their capacity as special advisors to Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. According to the big club, they’ll be involved with “player evaluation, development and communication from the amateur to NHL level,” working closely with Abbotsford.
Johnson was a teammate of the Sedins from 2008 to 2010.
“They’re friends and they’re people I highly respect,” he said. “We could speak for days about what they accomplished on the ice, but I respect them even more for how they treated people. These are two of the greatest resources I could ask for.
“I’m going to welcome their opinion on everything and anything, and I’m just excited to get back in a room with them talking hockey, talking people, talking about the process and culture they know is very important to me.”
The full regular season schedule and postseason format for 2021-22 will be announced later this summer, and the season is expected to begin on Oct. 15.