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From SBN's Canes Country...
Hockey fans in Carolina got some great news February 10th when it was announced that the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate was moving to Charlotte. The logic of the move was inescapable; last August, Canes Country's blogmeister Bob took a thoughtful (and prescient) look at the potential synergies in this post. The excitement of what this new arrangement means for the teams and their fans is playing out now in the Checkers’ offices on the 6th floor of a beautiful, historic building at 212 Tryon Street, a block or two away from the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the new and improved Charlotte Checkers will take the ice when the 2010-11 season opens in the fall.
It was my great privilege to sit down with Checkers COO Tera Black and Director of Media and Public Relations Mike Lappan last week at their offices in Charlotte. They (like many fans and followers) are thrilled by what the future holds for hockey in Carolina and are brimming with enthusiasm as they devote this off-season to laying the groundwork for the transition.
Head over to Canes Country, SBN's Carolina Hurricanes blog, for a snapshot of Charlotte hockey history, some events on tap this summer, and a preview of what we can look forward to next season, as the front office gets ready for the Checkers to make their debut in the American Hockey League.
Rumors of a split among the ranks at Madison Square Garden have the Rangers eyeballing Panthers' AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Can the Amerks be blamed for calling foul on Florida? Litter Box Cats reports:
In any case, it's hardly been news that Amerks fans and ownership have been less than enamoured with the Panthers' performance in regard to their American Legue stablemate, and finding anyone who believed an extension is forthcoming is an exercise in pain management. Of course, Cats' GM Dale Tallon just arrived, but whether he can - or more correctly chooses to - smooth over the crisis is anyone's guess. Florida and Rochester are joined at the hip for at the very least one more season.
As if there wasn't enough franchise swapping in the AHL this year, the Florida Panthers and Rochester Americans look like they have a head start on next year's dealings. Keith Wozniak from Litter Box Cats reports that this is the final year of the affiliation agreement between the two teams and it's likely the last:
It's going to be a long summer and long season unless Dale Tallon can come in and work some magic to smooth things over. The affiliation between the Amerks and Panthers has had some rough times but they seemed to be making progress. Stay tuned, it's going to be interesting.
The AHL and NHL do not provide a list of current affiliation lengths between teams so there’s no real way to say what other team would be available. Get ready for another lame duck season and world of distractions.
It's taken forever for the new AHL franchise in Oklahoma City to officially announce their nickname. There has been a ton of speculation. Could it be the Tornadoes? The Roughnecks? The Wildcatters? The Roughnecks again? Or perhaps the Bison or the Twisters?
As it turns out, it will be none of those possible choices. A few weeks ago, a site called Oilfield Hockey discovered a few logos for the Oklahoma City Barons by performing a search of the Patent and Trademark Office.
On Wednesday, a few hours before Prodigal Hockey, LLC -- the ownership group -- is set to officially announce the Barons as the newest member of the AHL, Oilfield Hockey discovered official proof.
This banner is from the AHL's website, and was found looking up the Team Directory information. And it was suspected that the other names were nothing more then just a smoke screen by Prodigal.
According to Derek Zona of SBN's The Copper & Blue, after the Barons logos were first discovered, Prodigal hurried to register a bunch of other copyrights to throw savvy researchers off of their game. He says the group was waiting until the NBA's Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs, so the announcement would have the full attention of the Oklahoma City sports scene.
Well, according to Zona, that backfired, and instead, most people in the area completely forgot there was an AHL team coming to town. Now, as they set to finally debut their new nickname, the secret is out.
After the Carolina Hurricanes left Albany without an affiliation, the River Rats have been actively seeking a new team to affiliate with for the 2010-11 season. They started with Portland and now the New Jersey Devils are looking to possibly move from Lowell to Albany. From Tom Gulitti of Fire and Ice:
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed that he met with with an official from the Times Union Center today about possibly returning the team's AHL affiliate to Albany, N.Y., but said "nothing is close" to being done.
The Devils' lease with Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass. expires after this season. Lamoriello said that keeping the team in Lowell is still the team's first choice.
With all of the switching of teams in the AHL for next season, some team is going to be left in the dark without an affiliate, which is a sad thought for fans of a small market team.
The new logo no longer has the yellow/gold that made up the Falcon's talons and beak. It has been replaced with a grey colour (foreshadowing the Jackets' new third jersey next season...) and the Falcons script has been filled in with red, replacing the white it was before. The overall sweater design is identical to Columbus, but with the main Blue Jacket logo on the shoulders.
The Cannon also posted this photo, courtesy of The Springfield Republican:
The speculation became official Wednesday morning as the Anaheim Ducks officially affiliated with the AHL's Syracuse Crunch, according to The Post-Standard of Syracuse. Of course, the suits from each side told the media how happy they are with the agreement.
"This is an honor and thrill for our organization, to partner with the Anaheim Ducks - - one of the truly elite franchises in the National Hockey League," said Crunch President and CEO Howard Dolgon. "They are a team with a proven winning track record on both the NHL and AHL levels and have highly experienced and very well-respected hockey people running their operation. We look forward to a long and successful relationship and can't wait to get started."
"We are thrilled to be affiliating with the Syracuse Crunch in such a great hockey market," said Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. "Syracuse is steeped in hockey tradition and we are excited to partner with an ownership and management team that shares the same commitment to winning and player development as we do."
"The Syracuse Crunch franchise has passionate ownership and a very strong management team, and the Anaheim Ducks have an excellent competitive history and proven track record of player development in the American Hockey League," said Dave Andrews, AHL President and CEO. "This partnership should prove to be successful for everyone involved."
The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY is speculating that the Anaheim Ducks are set to affiliate with the Syracuse Crunch. The Ducks have gone all season without an AHL team to call their own, and the Crunch were recently dumped by the Columbus Blue Jackets in favor of the Springfield Falcons.
The timing of the announcement, in particular, seems to point to the Ducks, who currently do not have an affiliate. If the Crunch were announcing an affiliation with a team currently tied to another AHL franchise, most would expect them to wait until the end of the season.
If true, the Ducks would have an AHL affiliate for the first time since breaking ties with the Iowa Chops last summer. The Iowa ownership had used the team as collateral in a loan, violating AHL rules, and were unable to fulfill their financial commitments to the Ducks in a timely manner.
Spending the year without an AHL team, Anaheim has farmed out experienced prospects to clubs like Manitoba, Toronto and San Antonio. However, some AHL clubs refused to play Anaheim's less experienced prospects, like Dan Sexton, who were forced to play for the Ducks' ECHL club in Bakersfield for a long stretch before a willing AHL placement could be found for them. The situation seemed to particularly affect Anaheim first-round picks Mark Mitera and Logan MacMillan. The former was unable to play a full and consistent season at the pro level after coming back from knee surgery, while the latter was picked up for drunk driving in Bakersfield after a disappointing year in the ECHL.
Bob Belber, general manager of Albany's Times Union Center, has offered the New Jersey Devils a ten-year contract to relocate their AHL franchise from Lowell, Massachusetts to his building, according to the aptly-named Albany Times Union.
"What we're looking for is a two-way commitment between us and the team," [Belber] said. "Certainly the terms and conditions of the deal are something that will be beneficial to both sides.
"We will be giving up more than we have in the past. The trade-off in giving this away is obviously to get an AHL team back, but it's also helps in getting a long-term commitment."
"It's not just financially related. It's us committing to making sure they have good ice and good practice time and good locker room space, properly maintained, and a controlled atmosphere from a security standpoint, to protect what they deem as their most vital asset, which is their players and developing those players to get to the NHL."
A deal to bring the Lowell team to Albany could be the last chance officials there have of getting a team in the city for next year. Negotiations with the Portland Pirates fell through, and that team ultimately wound up signing a new two-year lease to stay in Maine. Albany's current team, the River Rats, are moving to Charlotte, North Carolina next season to be closer to their NHL affiliate, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League are currently on the lookout for a new NHL affiliate after the Columbus Blue Jackets cut ties with them this week. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Crunch owner Howard Dolgon is inching closer and closer to signing a new affiliation agreement with another team.
Syracuse is shopping around because it looks like its 10-year affiliation with Columbus is over, with the Blue Jackets jumping over to Springfield. The only clue Dolgon has given is that he’s focusing on one team right now, and that a deal could be imminent.
That development could point to Anaheim as a potential partner for a couple of reasons. First, the Ducks do not have an AHL affiliate this season. Secondly, if the Crunch was close to a pact with a team that currently has another AHL affiliate, both Syracuse and the new parent club might want to wait until the end of the season to announce it.
“I’m waiting to hear back from a certain team,” Dolgon said. “I could get a phone call today and then I’ll be ready to roll. We’re pretty sure we have a clear picture where we are going.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets have reportedly ended their ten year partnership with the Syracuse Crunch. Next year they will affiliate with the Springfield Falcons, dropped by the Edmonton Oilers in favor of Oklahoma City earlier this year. This is the third official affiliation shift thus far this year, and the Anaheim Ducks are still without an AHL affiliate.
Syracuse is now on the hunt for an affiliate and Albany has not given up the search for a new franchise. The Iowa Chops need to find an affiliate for 2010-2011 or they will be forced to sell off the franchise. At least two other affiliation agreements expire this year, including the Texas Stars / Dallas Stars agreement which is widely expected to be renewed, as long as Texas can purchase a franchise.
Hockey has been played in the capital city of the State of New York for 20 straight seasons, but with the move of the Albany River Rats to Charlotte, North Carolina for the 2010-2011 season, that reign is in jeopardy.
Sources have told the Albany Times Union that the Portland (Maine) Pirates are negotiating with the Times Union Center, the ironically named building that the River Rats currently call home, and that a move to Albany could be announced within a few weeks.
Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber said today a deal for a new AHL tenant could be in place by the first week in March, adding whether that team would be called the River Rats remained undetermined.
The Pirates managing owner, Brian Petrovek, attended a game at Times Union Center Friday. In an interview with staff writer Pete Dougherty, Petrovek would not directly discuss moving the team to Albany, but said the team is exploring options and addressed how hockey could work in the Capital Region.
The Pirates have been located in Portland since 1993 and they have relatively good attendance numbers compared to most franchises in the league. They've averaged 4,145 fans for home games this season, compared to Albany's 3,545 fans per game.
The team is locally owned and they have a pretty nice set up at the Cumberland County Civic Center, despite public knowledge that they would like to see renovations on the building. The lease between the arena and the team is up at the end of this season.
Nevertheless, they're kind of baffled about the news of a potential move in Portland.
However, Neal Pratt Chairman of the Cumberland County Civic Center Trustee says not so fast.
Pratt indicated that he was aware the Portland Pirates were looking at Albany as potential place to relocate should a new lease with the CCCC not come to fruition.
He still, however, it acting under the assumption that both parties are working in good faith in toward a new lease, and the Pirates will stay in Portland.
"This doesn’t catch me by surprise," he said. "Brian (Petrovek) has been very forth right about this, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that good business people would be looking everywhere at all times to consider what’s best for their business."
It's not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination, but it's creating a lot of emotions inside both fan bases. In Albany, it's hope for a hockey-filled future, while in Portland, they're getting ready to potentially mourn their team.
The move of the Albany River Rats to Charlotte doesn’t affect just hockey fans in New York’s capital.
Our Philadelphia Flyers site, Broad Street Hockey, writes today about how the Albany River Rats planned move will affect the Adirondack Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Flyers.
Long term, though, a strong rivalry with a team in Albany is a major player in hockey succeeding in Glens Falls. The current incarnation of hockey there isn’t expected to last longer than the next couple of years, as the ownership is on record saying that the ultimate goal is to get an arena built in Allentown, PA.
But the Brooks’ aren’t forgetting about Glens Falls, nor are they ‘using’ the hockey-loving community up there. Their job there, as they see it, is to prove to another ownership group that the AHL can be successful in the town, so that when they finally do move to Allentown, another team is ready to jump in.
Head over to Broad Street Hockey to read the entire article.
The Albany River Rats have officially been sold to MAK Hockey, Inc. of Charlotte, North Carolina. The team, which has been a part of the Albany sports landscape since 1990, will move to Charlotte for the start of the 2010-11 season.
American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced today that the league’s Board of Governors has approved the sale of the franchise owned by Capital District Sports Inc. to Michael Kahn, and the relocation of the franchise from Albany, N.Y., to Charlotte, N.C., to begin play there in the fall of 2010.
In addition, the franchise has signed a new affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes.
The Charlotte Checkers will begin play with the 2010-11 AHL season at the Time Warner Cable Arena, the region’s premier sports and entertainment venue located in the heart of the city’s Uptown area.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 84 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 6.5 million fans per season have attended AHL games across North America since 2001.
Charlotte has been the home to ECHL hockey since 1993 under the name Checkers. There's a history of the sport in that city dating back to the 1950s, but this is the first time that the NHL's top developmental league will find it's way to the Queen City.
Albany had been the affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes and, as you can assume, that affiliation agreement will continue now that the AHL club will be much, much closer to their home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
In Charlotte, they are no doubt excited about the news. Here's the Checkers' press release:
Charlotte Checkers owner Michael Kahn announced today that the American Hockey League Board of Governors has approved his purchase of the AHL’s Albany River Rats franchise, as well as the team’s relocation to Charlotte to begin play in 2010-11.
The Checkers will enter into a multi-year affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes and become the primary training ground for Hurricanes prospects. The partnership will unite North Carolina’s two biggest cities, Raleigh and Charlotte, and form marketing and operational synergy between the state’s only two professional hockey teams. The Queen City will play host to the highest caliber of hockey that it has seen since it was introduced to the sport in 1956.
"I am extremely excited to bring AHL hockey to Charlotte," said Kahn. "The city of Charlotte has experienced tremendous growth in recent years and with that comes expectations of a higher level of professional sports, hockey notwithstanding. Fans will now be able to watch a player in Charlotte one night and with the Hurricanes the next. Hockey is and will remain an important component of the Charlotte sports landscape and we will continue to be the best family sports entertainment value in town."
The agreement provides advantages both on and off the ice such as savings on travel, cross-promotion and marketability of players as they develop into future NHL stars.
Head on over to SB Nation's Canes Country for a local take on this story.
Canes Country reports that Charlotte Checkers owner Michael Kahn will hold a press conference today to announce that he has purchased Carolina’s AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats, and detail his plans to move them to Charlotte and begin play there in 2010-2011.
The sale represents the second major franchise shift in two days, following yesterday’s announcement that Edmonton was reactivating the Roadrunners and moving the franchise to Oklahoma City. More moves are expected in the near future as four other affiliation agreements are expiring, including those of the Lowell Devils, Syracuse Crunch, Hartford WolfPack and Texas Stars.
The River Rats leaving town could spell the end of professional hockey in Albany, a stalwart city for the AHL over the last seventeen years, however, rumors have surfaced surrounding a local car dealership magnate’s efforts to purchase the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and move them to Albany for 2010-2011, but nothing substantive has come of these talks just yet.
The Oilers will reactivate their dormant AHL Roadrunners franchise, and the name of the new team will be determined in part by fan suggestions. The announcement officially brings an end to their affiliation agreement with the Springfield Falcons, though that news is not new to Springfield fans. Springfield is now left to find an NHL parent club before the 2010-2011 season.
The worst kept secret in the AHL will finally be revealed tomorrow at 4 P.M. CST in Oklahoma City at the Cox Center, the home of the new franchise. The Edmonton Journal reports that the Oilers will be holding the press conference, not Prodigal Hockey, LLC, as previously thought. The name is still in the air, but as the Copper & Blue reported, Prodigal Hockey has reserved six domain names that narrow the possible names to the 89ers, Hawks, Oil Barons, Oil Kings, Oilers, and the Roadrunners.
The Coyotes new owners, Ice edge Holdings, have plans to bring the AHL to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Coyotes’ current affiliation with the San Antonio Rampage expires at the end of the 2010-2011 season and Ice Edge plans on purchasing a franchise to play in Thunder Bay. With most teams attempting to minimize the geographical distance to their AHL affiliate, Ice Edge’s decision to move their affiliate 1500 miles away is a curious decision.
At this year's annual state of the league address, AHL Commissioner David Andrews addressed a number of issues facing the AHL right now, including NHL affiliations and the possibility of franchise relocation. One of the topics discussed was Carolina's desire to have an affiliate closer to Raleigh, as their current affiliate, Albany, is isolated to the Northeast.
Canes Country was on the story and decided that if there is a move, Charlotte will be the likely destination. The thinking, according to Canes Country:
...having an AHL affiliate in Charlotte would bridge the gap between the state's two biggest cities. Despite being the "Carolina" Hurricanes, the organization has been Raleigh's team, not the Carolinas' or even the state's. If interest in the AHL team blossomed — and a city as big as Charlotte should have no problem supporting a Triple A-level minor league hockey team — there would be an immediate connection between Charlotte and the Hurricanes, helping to further grow the fan base.
The Raleigh News & Observer picked up the story and agreed that Charlotte was the likely destination, but River Rats owner Walter Robb denied reports, as he would like the franchise to stay in Albany. Puck Daddy came late to the party with news that the Rangers may be interested in filling the Albany market should the River Rats end up in Charlotte.
Also on the agenda for Commissioner Andrews was Edmonton's intent to move their affiliation to Oklahoma City. Andrews said that nothing was set in stone, but that the likelihood of a move was eight on a scale of ten. The Copper & Blue was on the case in December, interviewing Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett about a new lease agreement between the city and future AHL franchise owners Prodigal Hockey, LLC. A week before the league meetings, The Copper & Blue found that the Oilers were conducting surveys of potential season ticket holders in Oklahoma City to gauge their interest in the new team. And days before the meeting, it was discovered that Prodigal Hockey had already reserved six domains for their new team, tipping their hand to the name of the new team. Andrews did say that Edmonton wanted to ensure a soft landing for Springfield.
The commissioner also addressed the Iowa situation -- after the Iowa Chops ceased operations, Anaheim was left without an affiliate and has been forced to divide their AHL team between Manitoba, Texas and Toronto. "They are not happy," Andrews said. "They very much want to have their (own) team." The Chops are for sale and new owners could activate the franchise and re-affiliate with the Ducks if an owner can be found in time. The Texas Stars are also temporarily associated with the Dallas Stars and Commissioner Andrews said that if the affiliation isn't made permanent, the league will not exempt the franchise and they may cease operations.
The meetings also brought the rumor-mongers out of the woodwork as someone floated that Ottawa would be moving their affiliation from Binghamton to Cornwall. But the Senators quickly addressed those rumors: "Mr. Melnyk has no interest and has never indicated any interest in operating an American Hockey League team, and no one from Senators Sports & Entertainment has had any discussion with Cornwall."
Five or six affiliation agreements expire at the end of the season, one temporary affiliation agreement must be made permanent, three teams may be on the move and the Ducks still need to find an exclusive affiliate -- the AHL is about to undergo a serious facelift.
Special thanks to Jennifer Bock for the photo of Nicholas Blanchard in action.
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