AHL Hockey Moves South: An Interview With Charlotte Checkers COO Tera Black

The silly season has come in the AHL, with several teams on the move, several teams threatening moves, and some cities left without teams. Follow the whole mess here.

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Report: Rangers Dumping Hartford For Rochester; What Next For Panthers?

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.
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Welcome The AHL's Newest Team: Oklahoma City Barons

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.

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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.

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Blue Jackets Change Affiliate to Springfield

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.

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Albany River Rats Officially Move To Charlotte For 2010-11 Season

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.

Here's the press release from the American Hockey League:

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.

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Edmonton Oilers Announce Affiliation In Oklahoma City

The Edmonton Oilers announced a new five-year affiliation agreement with Prodigal Hockey, LLC of Oklahoma City. President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe and General Manager Steve Tambellini were on hand for the press conference and media tour, including a radio interview following the announcement.

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.

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River Rats Sold; Announcement Coming Wednesday

As a follow up to the coverage that Canes Country provided on the possible sale of the Albany River Rats, Tim McManus reports that the sale will be announced Wednesday.

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