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.
During the second season of Heat hockey in 2017-18, the team would be led to the playoffs for the first time in team history, playing the San Jose Barracuda in the Pacific Division Semifinals. A back and forth series led to the decisive Game 5 where unfortunately, the Heat would fall in overtime by a 2-1 final. While it was a disappointing ending, there were a lot of great stories during the season, most notably the emergence of rookie Mark Jankowski, who would eventually become the Heat’s all-time leading scorer and would be named to the AHL All-Rookie Team.
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 2017-18, the franchise that calls Stockton home now 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.