The Vancouver Canucks announced Thursday via their official website that they have renewed their affiliation with ECHL team the Kalamazoo Wings for a second consecutive year.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis released the following statement;
“We are pleased to continue our partnership with the Kalamazoo Wings, Kalamazoo is an organization that shares our level of commitment to success and we will continue to work together to provide our players opportunities to further develop themselves on and off the ice.”
Kalamazoo, a city of around 75,000 people, is best known for being the home of the Western Michigan University (WMU). The team plays out of the Wings Stadium, with a capacity of just over 5100 for hockey and are currently the sole tenants of the arena. Kalamazoo are a second time partner of the Canucks, having been affiliated with the team in the mid-1980′s while they were playing in the IHL.
The K-Wings have won three consecutive North Division championships and finished as runners-up in the Eastern Conference of the ECHL last season, eventually losing to the Florida Everblades in the Conference finals.
On the same day as announcing a renewed partnership with the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL, the K-Wings also became affiliated with the Canucks’ own farm team the AHL’s Chicago Wolves on a one year term.
While the affiliate agreement is only minor for the Canucks organization, the rumours concerning a possible Aquilini group purchase of the Abbotsford Heat are intensifying, with the Calgary Flames AHL affiliate having the potential to become a huge cash-cow for the family if the lockout cloud continues to loom over the NHL.
Simply, Vancouver needs hockey and while the Giants of the WHL provide some relief, the fans want to see the stars of the Canucks stay in the province and the Abbotsford team could provide a close temporary home for many current players.
The Canucks also announced the signing of 18 year old defenceman Evan McEneny on Thursday, the undrafted rookie signing an entry-level contract.
McEneny joined the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers in 2010/11 after a spell with the Burlington Cougars junior team. The Hamilton, Ontario native registered 4 assists and 14 penalty minutes in 44 games for the Rangers in his first season before a serious knee injury caused him to miss almost the entire 2011/12 campaign.
The 6’2, 205 pound blueliner was a member of the 2012 Canucks prospect camp roster, playing in Group A alongside fellow Canucks defensive prospects Ben Hutton and Peter Andersson. Despite his injury troubles, McEneny is seen a player with a bright future and has been described in an OHL scouting report as “a naturally gifted offensive defenceman”.
The next step for the Canucks will be to try and extend the contracts of players Alexander Edler and Alex Burrows, with both players expected to be offered extended deals before the new CBA kicks in.
All eyes will be on Mike Gillis and the Canucks management group for the next few weeks as the pieces continue to fall into place for the Vancouver team.