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Do residents want pro hockey back in Utica?

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Do residents want pro hockey back in Utica?
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The possibility of a professional hockey team coming to the Mohawk Valley has many people on the edge of their seats. A Utica Observer Dispatch blog reports a deal has been made to bring a minor league franchise to the Utica Auditorium. But not everyone is cheering the idea. Cara Thomas tells us why some say it could be on thin ice.

UTICA, N.Y. -- It's been more than 20 years since the Utica Devils took the ice at the Auditorium.

Bill Owens, an Old Forge Resident, said, "Marty Broudeur, who is a goal tender for the New Jersey Devils right now, was here when he was 19-years-old."

But even with memorable players like Broudeur, the fans just didn't come and the Devils left the Mohawk Valley.

"I don't think most people realized what they had," said Owens.

Some people are hoping this time will be different. With rumors circulating about the Calgary Flames possibly bringing an AHL team to the Aud, hockey fans are optimistic.

Pamela Matt from the MV Chamber of Commerce said, "There's nothing better than going to a sports event. I mean, it's economical, it's fun, it's family driven, it's community pride."

And while it all seems like a great idea, some Utica residents say it's a pipe dream. They don't think college students and city residents will be able to afford to go to these games. Work may need to be done on the Aud as part of a potential deal, including a new scoreboard. But many people in the Mohawk Valley think bringing in a team is worth the effort.

"I think it benefits Utica hockey too because they have the opportunity to watch a little better hockey and maybe even flash some of their players in front of these pros," said Matt.

The Calgary Flames addressed the speculation in a statement saying, "We have been approached by representatives in Utica concerning an opportunity for the AHL. We understand they are building a case for the AHL to return there. We are under contract and committed to Abbotsford, and have made no alternate commitments."

So for now, hockey fans will just have to wait and see. But many say if it does happen, this time, they'll do their part to keep the team around.

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