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.