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AHL adds Pacific Division with five California teams

The American Hockey League is finally catching up with the NHL's westward expansion.

The minor league's board of governors has unanimously approved a Pacific Division for the 2105-16 season, AHL President David Andrews announced Thursday. All five teams will be in California:

• The Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals and relocate it from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego.

• The AHL franchise owned by the Calgary Flames will relocate from Glens Falls to Stockton, Calif.

• The AHL franchise owned by the Edmonton Oilers will relocate from Oklahoma City to Bakersfield, Calif.

• The AHL franchise owned by the Los Angeles Kings will relocate from Manchester, N.H., to Ontario, Calif.

• The AHL franchise owned by the San Jose Sharks will relocate from Worcester, Mass., to San Jose, Calif.

The complete divisional alignment and schedule format will be announced at a later date.

"Relocating five teams is a complex process, and we are very excited to have brought this initiative to a successful outcome," Andrews said. "The Western-based NHL clubs have been in dialogue with our league for almost three years, and today’s announcement launches a new era for the American Hockey League and for professional hockey in California."

The Pacific Division will allow NHL clubs to better monitor their minor-league clubs. The Sharks will share their arena with the AHL team, which is obviously more convenient than traveling to Massachusetts for in-person player updates.

“The immense growth of the game of hockey in the state of California shows that hockey fans here love the game and they support it,” Sharks Chief Operating Officer John Tortora said. “Having our top prospects playing on the same coast as our National Hockey League team will greatly enhance our ability to monitor and enhance their development."

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