There are still a lot of things to be determined about the upcoming 2020-21 American Hockey League (AHL) season, but at least all 31 teams now have an NHL affiliate. The Carolina Hurricanes announced on Thursday that they have an agreement in place with the Chicago Wolves for the next three seasons.
“We are proud to be affiliated with such a historically and financially successful American Hockey League franchise,” Hurricanes’ general manager Don Waddell said in an official statement. “I’m confident our prospects will receive first-class treatment in Chicago, while continuing to be guided by coaches, management and trainers who work closely with the parent club in Raleigh.”
All Affiliates are Set
This ends the shuffling of AHL affiliates that was set into motion by the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this year. Rumors started in the fall that the Golden Knights were looking to buy their own AHL team and move it closer to Las Vegas. This led to speculation about the purchase of one of the handful of independently owned teams, including the Wolves and the Rockford IceHogs.
Finally, in February, the Golden Knights purchased the San Antonio Rampage and have since moved them to Henderson, NV and rebranded them as the Silver Knights. This ended their three-year partnership with the Wolves and caused a chain reaction across the league.
The St. Louis Blues, who were affiliated with the Rampage, struck a deal with the Springfield Thunderbirds, leaving the Florida Panthers without a minor-league team. Last week, reports linked the Panthers and the Charlotte Checkers together which left the Hurricanes and Wolves as the last two dancers left without a partner. The Panthers and Checkers officially announced their partnership this morning as well.
A Relationship Renewed
The Hurricanes and the Checkers had been partners since 2010 and they won the 2019 Calder Cup together, ironically, by beating the Wolves. One may wonder why the Hurricanes would end their relationship with a team just 165 miles away from them. The quick answer is that Waddell had a great relationship with the Wolves while he was the general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers and they were their AHL affiliate between 2001 and 2011.
However, getting players to and from Chicago will not be too much of an issue. The Allstate Arena, where the Wolves play their home games, is just a couple of miles away from the terminal of O’Hare Airport. This is the fifth NHL affiliate for the Wolves since they joined the AHL. Sandwiched in between their time with the Thrashers and Golden Knights, was partnerships with the Vancouver Canucks and Blues.
“It’s a great organization,” said Wolves general manager Wendell Young about the Hurricanes. “Our relationship with Don Waddell over the years has been terrific and he leads an all-encompassing organization. They care about their AHL affiliate and they’ve done a great job of drafting and building through trades. We’re excited about the prospects coming here and accompanying them with quality veterans. We’re looking forward to putting a great team on the ice.”
The next step for the AHL is to figure out when their starting will be, announce a schedule and figure out their division alignments. Their work is far from done, but, at least the affiliations are all lined up and locked in.