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ECHL News & Notes

Normally, there is a pause between the end of one season and the start of another in the ECHL, but not this season.

ECHL News & Notes

WICHITA, Kan. – Normally, there is a pause between the end of one season and the start of another in the ECHL, but not this season. We’ve gone headlong into player signings, affiliation announcements, and more.

Let’s get into it!

Affiliation Swaps

Perhaps some news lost in the hubbub of the Kelly Cup Playoffs was that three ECHL teams had secured new affiliations for the 2021-22 season.

In a move that was a surprise to absolutely no one, the Minnesota Wild announced a multi-year affiliation agreement with the expansion Iowa Heartlanders.

“We look forward to being a part of the Heartlanders inaugural season and helping grow the great sport of hockey while also having the opportunity to develop players at both the AHL and ECHL level in Iowa. This is an exciting day for our organization,” said Wild General Manager Bill Guerin.

The obvious branding opportunity of using Interstate 80, the Quad Cities, Coralville, and Des Moines is there; thank us later, Wild.

Elsewhere, after spending three years with the Maine Mariners, the New York Rangers moved south for their new ECHL affiliation, pairing up with the Jacksonville Icemen. The Icemen’s previous player development partner, the Winnipeg Jets, usually only sent between one and three players down to the club. It’s possible the Rangers could send a lot more down to the First Coast of Florida.

“We are excited to partner with one of the NHL’s most iconic franchises as we continue to move forward to bringing the Kelly Cup to Jacksonville,” said Icemen CEO Andy Kaufmann.   “We are confident the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack will be great partners.”

The Rangers’ previous ECHL player development partner, the Maine Mariners, didn’t have to look far for their new player affiliate partner…107 miles to be exact. The move is unique in that each Portland sports franchise has some player development relationship with a Boston franchise.

“The Boston Bruins are excited to establish an affiliation agreement with the Maine Mariners of the ECHL,” said Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney. “The Bruins and Maine Mariners have a long player development history, as well as having a passionate fan base in Portland and throughout the state of Maine. We are looking forward to building a strong working relationship with Comcast Spectacor, Daniel Briere, and the coaching staff of the Mariners.”

There could be a few additional moves during the offseason, and if there are, we’ll have them for you.

The Exodus to Europe

Each year, it seems like ECHL players head overseas to ply their trade in Europe, where the ice is wider, the playing schedule shorter, and pay is better. Since players couldn’t do that last year due to the pandemic, they’re heading over in droves for this coming season. Here are the last eight days of player movement from the ECHL to various European leagues:

Date Player ECHL Team European Team
July 14 Jordan Klimek South Carolina Stingrays DEAC
July 14 C.J. Motte Allen Americans Coventry Blaze
July 13 Robby Jackson Tulsa Oilers HC Nove Zamky
July 12 Adam Brady Kansas City Mavericks Manchester Storm
July 12 Matt Ginn Kansas City Mavericks Manchester Storm
July 10 Cole Sanford Florida Everblades Cardiff Devils
July 10 Josh Lammon Allen Americans Cardiff Devils
July 10 J.C. Brassard Tulsa Oilers Nottingham Panthers
July 10 Eric Israel Rapid City Rush Kalmar HC
July 8 Cole Ully South Carolina Stingrays HKM Zvolen
July 7 Jack Suter Rapid City Rush UTE
July 6 Marc-Olivier Roy Fort Wayne Komets Bratislava Capitals
July 6 Tyler Nanne South Carolina Stingrays Bratislava Capitals
July 6 Ryan Lowney Utah Grizzlies Rodoure Mighty Bulls

There will almost surely be more in the days to come, so we’ll have an update to this list again next week.

Solidifying the Mavs Front Office

After summarily dismissing long-time President & General Manager Brent Thiessen in May, the Mavericks have broken the position up into two different job sets and given them to different people in an effort to fortify the front office ahead of next season.

Team owner, Lamar Hunt, Jr., went back into his Chiefs’ Rolodex to bring in former Vice President of Content and Digital Operations, Mike Cukyne, to be the new team President. Cukyne, a former TV station general manager, vows to bring the excitement & relationships back to Cable Dahmer Arena next season, telling Bill Althaus (paywall):

“We want Friday and Saturday nights to be sold out, rowdy events where our fans are having as much fan as our players. They really feed off our fans, which made last season so disappointing because (due to COVID-19 protocols) our guys could not go out into the community and meet our fans, but that is going to change this upcoming season.”

The team’s new General Manager is head coach Tad O’Had, who just finished his first season as bench boss for the Mavericks, going 31-31-8-2.

“We all share the same vision in this organization and that is to ice an incredible product on and off the ice and bring a championship to Kansas City,” O’Had said. “Simply put the job every day is to make this organization better, whether it be through recruiting, player retention, fan outreach, player development or thinking outside of the box. We have an exceptional staff here with the Mavericks and we will continue to look to advance our organization until we reach our ultimate goals.”

The Mavericks have made the playoffs twice under Hunt’s ownership.

Ralph Stays in Florida

The back-to-back Brabham Cup winning Florida Everblades will have their bench boss around for at least the next five years. The team announced Monday Brad Ralph would be in southwest Florida for the next five years. In his previous five seasons on the ‘Blades bench, he has amassed a record of 280-105-34 and been to the postseason each season.

“Brad’s record speaks for itself. He is very passionate about his job, he puts in the time and no one wants to win more than he does. We are fortunate to have Brad make this long-term commitment to the organization, the team and the fans,” stated Everblades President and GM Craig Brush. “I look forward to continuing to work with Brad in our quest to bring another Kelly Cup to Southwest Florida.”

With Ralph behind the bench, rest assured the ‘Blades will continue to remain a force in the ECHL for years to come.

Slow Trickle of Signings…for Now

Free agency opened last Friday in the ECHL, and as expected, there has been a slow trickle of signings. The highlight of the opening five days of free agency came when Trois-Rivieres announced the signing of five players, all French-born, to their opening night roster. Without a doubt, the pace will quicken soon, as teams make decisions on who to bring back for next season and sign other players who come available.

You can always check out the latest signings in the league by visiting our transactions page: https://fieldpasshockey.com/2021-echl-transactions/.

I’ll be back next week to empty out the notebook again.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Matthew Harding is the Managing Editor for Field Pass Hockey, covers the ECHL and the Wichita Thunder. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHThunder.

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