On January 29, 2015 the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames announced that they had purchased the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder and would move the ECHL team to Glens Falls, New York, the locale of their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, while moving the AHL franchise from Adirondack to Stockton.
The Thunder had a terrific run in Stockton, lasting 10 seasons, making the playoffs in eight of those seasons, attracting 2,131,587 fans and holding the distinction as the only California based ECHL club to ever compete for a Kelly Cup Championship.
The announcement that Stockton would be getting an AHL team was received with a lot of excitement as it was also announced that four other NHL teams, the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks would all be moving their top affiliates to California beginning Fall 2015.
The team held a “Name the Team” contest, the second ever in Stockton’s hockey history. After Michelle Costa, an 11-year old from Tracy, California named the Thunder team back in 2005, it’d be Daniel Harms who’d be announced the winner of the “Name the AHL Team” contest. The name Heat was selected over four other popular entries, “Blaze”, “Fire”, “Inferno” and “Scorch”.
Despite narrowly missing the playoffs in the inaugural season, the Heat had plenty of notables in 2015-16 inlcuding a team opening 7-0 win over the Rockford IceHogs, a win outdoors at Raley Field in West Sacramento against the Bakersfield Condors and saw 16 players earn the call to the NHL with five of those players making their NHL debuts.
While the Heat will be one of eight teams (San Jose Barracuda, Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars and Tucson Roadrunners) in the “Pacific Division” of the AHL in 2016-17, the franchise that comes to Stockton has actually been around since 1977.
The franchise began in Portland, Maine as the Maine Mariners, making several moves until finding a long-term home in Stockton as part of the AHL movement to the West Coast. Over the past 38 years, the franchise has won four Calder Cup Championships and has employed some of the best players and coaches in the history of the sport including Ken Daneyko, Martin Brodeur, Herb Brooks and Marty St. Louis .