The Evansville IceMen announced this afternoon that the franchise has agreed to a new 2-year agreement (for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons) to serve as the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators and their AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Senators. Earlier today, Ottawa and Binghamton also announced a 4-year extension to their NHL/AHL affiliation agreement, now inked through the 2018-19 season.
Ottawa and Binghamton have worked with the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals for the past 6 seasons. The Senators and “B-Sens” (as Binghamton’s team is widely known) were left looking for a new ECHL affiliate this summer after Elmira signed a new (more geographically logical) deal with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and the AHL’s Rochester Americans.
The affiliation news is not particularly surprising to fans who have been looking for clues. New IceMen Head Coach Dwight Mullins is already familiar with the Ottawa/Binghamton organization, having been Elmira’s coach for the past 2 seasons. IceMen defenseman Guy Lepine has already made it known that he has received a training camp invitation from Ottawa. And the Senators were one of only a few NHL teams that had not yet announced their ECHL affiliation plans for the upcoming season.
The new relationship is certainly off to a promising start. Mullins will be in attendance at the Senators’ upcoming rookie camp in London, Ontario. Senators Assistant General Manager Randy Lee said that Ottawa will occasionally be sending coaches and other player development personnel to Evansville during the season. Lee also stated that the Senators organization was impressed by everything about Evansville – including the fans, the Ford Center, Coach Mullins, and IceMen Owner Ron Geary.
(Lee later appeared on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 to discuss the Sens’ affiliation news. He continued to speak incredibly positively about Evansville and the IceMen, so much so that the TSN hosts joked that he’s either moving to Evansville or must be on the IceMen marketing staff. You can listen to the TSN interview here.)
And probably the most exciting news for IceMen fans: Geary mentioned at the press conference that the IceMen are working with the Ottawa front office to potentially host a Senators NHL pre-season game at the Ford Center in the future, perhaps as soon as the fall of 2015.
This officially brings to an end the two-year affiliation between the IceMen and the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, whose AHL affiliate is the Springfield Falcons. That relationship was essentially terminated when the Blue Jackets and Falcons recently announced a 2014-15 affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. Kalamazoo now has a dual NHL affiliation after also renewing their agreement with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. The K-Wings will actually have a total of 5 parent clubs because they also have a separate minor-league affiliation deal with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, who are affiliated with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.
For the benefit of IceMen fans, IceMenManiacs.com now offers up a quick primer with information about our new affiliates and their home cities, the affiliation itself, and web links to visit…
• Ottawa is the national capital of Canada, and the nation’s 4th largest city. (The largest are Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.) It is not Ontario’s provincial capital, however, as Toronto serves in that capacity. With a population of about 880,000, Ottawa is roughly equivalent in size to Indianapolis. (Ottawa’s official population is a bit larger, but Indianapolis has a slightly more populous metropolitan area.)
• Located in the eastern part of Ontario along the Quebec border, Ottawa is the largest city in Canada that has 2 official languages. Though English is still by far the most common, French is also widely spoken – and more than a third of the city’s citizens speak both languages. Ottawa is an incredibly diverse city though, as over a fifth of Ottawans list neither English nor French as their primary language.
• One of Ottawa’s most interesting tourist attractions is the Rideau Canal, which is the primary location of the city’s annual Winterlude festival. A lengthy portion of the canal, nearly 5 miles in length, officially becomes the world’s largest skating rink every winter. The canal “Skateway” is equivalent in size to approximately 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks. Skating is allowed 24/7 during Winterlude and for a few weeks both before and after the festival, as weather permits. Winterlude, which also features ice sculpture displays and concerts, attracts over 1 million visitors to Ottawa each year.
• Famous Ottawans include comedian Dan Aykroyd, singer Alanis Morissette, actor Matthew Perry, actress Sandra Oh, and Hockey Hall of Famers Frank “King” Clancy and Denis Potvin. Potvin currently works as a color commentator during local Senators television broadcasts.
• Ottawa was the first city in Ontario to have a hockey club. The city’s first team, founded in 1883 as an unnamed amateur squad, gradually became a professional operation that adopted the “Senators” name in the early 1900s. The Senators eventually became one of the NHL’s founding members in 1917, and the team remained in Ottawa until 1934. Due to mounting financial losses, the owners moved the franchise to St. Louis (and re-named the team the “Eagles”) for the 1934-35 season, but the relocated team only lasted that lone season in Missouri before folding altogether. The original Ottawa Senators won a total of 11 Stanley Cups, including 4 as a member of the NHL.
THE OTTAWA SENATORS:
• The “new” Ottawa Senators began as an NHL expansion team in 1992, paying homage to the city’s hockey history by dusting off the “Senators” name. The team’s inaugural season was a disaster on the ice, as the Senators finished with a putrid 10-70-4 record, one of the worst seasons ever recorded in the NHL’s long history. But after a few lean developmental years, Ottawa’s reborn NHL team found sustained success.
• The Sens have won 4 division titles and have qualified for the playoffs in 14 of the last 17 seasons. They finished 37-31-14 in 2013-14, narrowly missing the post-season for the first time since 2011. The current Senators franchise has never won the Stanley Cup, but did reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2007 (losing to Anaheim in 5 games).
• Notable Senators players through the years have included Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Alexei Yashin, Marian Hossa, Dany Heatley, and Radek Bonk.
• Ottawa’s current head coach is Paul MacLean, who won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach in 2013. MacLean played over 700 NHL games, primarily with the Winnipeg Jets, and retired in 1991 as a member of the St. Louis Blues. While later working his way up the coaching ranks in the minors, MacLean coached the likes of the Peoria Rivermen and Quad City Mallards.
• The Senators are owned by Eugene Melnyk, a Ukrainian-Canadian billionaire who made his fortune in the pharmaceutical industry. The franchise’s general manager is longtime NHL coach and executive Bryan Murray.
• Since 1996, the Senators have played their home games at what is now known as the Canadian Tire Centre, formerly known as the Corel Centre and Scotiabank Place. In 1999, the arena played host to Wayne Gretzky’s final game in Canada, a 2-2 tie between the Senators and Gretzky’s New York Rangers.
• Ottawa’s fans are known as the “Sens Army.” They are so passionate about their team that after popular player Mike Fisher was traded to Nashville in 2011, allowing him to be in the same city as his new wife Carrie Underwood, Senators fans threatened to boycott Ottawa’s country radio stations if they continued to play Underwood’s music – and the stations complied!
BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK:
• Binghamton is located in south-central New York, near the Pennsylvania border. It is about 150 miles northwest of New York City, 210 miles west of Boston, and 700 miles northeast of Evansville. (While that’s still a very long way away, it IS closer than the home of our previous AHL affiliate – Evansville is about 850 miles from Springfield, Massachusetts!)
• Though the city itself has only about 47,000 residents, Binghamton is at the center of a metropolitan area of over 250,000 people. (By comparison, Evansville has a city population of about 120,000 and a metro area of nearly 360,000.) Famous Binghamtonians include actress Bridget Moynahan, actress/comedian Amy Sedaris, and “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling.
• One of Binghamton’s nicknames is “The Carousel Capital of the World.” The city is home of 6 antique carousels, more than can be found in any other city in the world. (There are only about 150 in all of North America, according to Binghamton’s tourism office.) Local businessman George Johnson donated the half-dozen carousels to the city between 1919 and 1934, on the condition that the area’s children (and children at heart) never be asked to pay to ride them. To this day, the merry-go-rounds are open annually from Memorial Day to Labor Day – and the price of admission is just “one piece of litter,” in an effort to help keep the surrounding areas clean. All 6 carousels, located in municipal parks and the Binghamton Zoo, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Folks can even “Ride the Carousel Circuit” by collecting a card after riding each one, then turning in all 6 cards to receive a special commemorative button.
• Like Evansville, Binghamton formerly had a professional baseball team called the Triplets. The Binghamton Triplets were founded in 1923 and generally played at the Double-A level, mostly as an affiliate of the New York Yankees, until folding in 1968. Just 2 years later in 1970, the Evansville Triplets joined the American Association (Triple-A) as an expansion franchise. They would remain a fixture in Evansville until 1984, when the franchise was moved to Nashville to become the Nashville Sounds.
• Ironically, Binghamton also formerly had a professional hockey team called the Icemen. The BC Icemen (BC for “Broome County”) played in the United Hockey League from 1997 until declaring bankruptcy in 2002. (Evansville’s IceMen were founded just 6 years later in 2008.) Binghamton has continuously had pro hockey since 1973, starting with the North American Hockey League’s Broome Dusters, who moved up to the AHL in 1977 and were known as the Binghamton Dusters until 1980, the Binghamton Whalers from 1980 to 1990, and the Binghamton Rangers from 1990 until 1997. After the aforementioned BC Icemen then replaced the Rangers in the market for 5 seasons, the current Binghamton Senators brought the AHL back to town in 2002.
THE BINGHAMTON SENATORS:
• The B-Sens have been Ottawa’s top affiliate since the AHL returned to Binghamton in 2002. Their colors (red/black/gold/white) are the same as the parent club, and the team’s logo is somewhat similar to Ottawa’s. Binghamton’s mascot is a lion cub named Max.
• Binghamton has enjoyed a fair amount of success on the ice in its most recent AHL stint, having finished below .500 just 3 times in 12 seasons, with a trio of division titles (including the 2013-14 season). In 2011, the Senators won the Calder Cup championship, the only pro hockey title in Binghamton history. The team finished with identical 44-24-8 records in each of the past two seasons, losing to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the first round of the playoffs both years.
• Notable B-Sens alumni include Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Brian Elliott, Ray Emery, Robin Lehner, Anton Volchenkov, Patrick Eaves, Chris Neil, and Chris Kelly.
• Binghamton’s current head coach is Luke Richardson, a 20-year NHL veteran defenseman who finished his playing career with Ottawa in 2008-09. After hanging up his skates, Richardson spent 3 seasons as an assistant coach in Ottawa before taking over as the main man in Binghamton in 2012. Luke and his wife Stephanie are the co-founders of Do It For Daron, an Ottawa-based organization that aims to improve awareness of childhood mental health problems and prevent youth suicide. Their daughter Daron took her own life at the age of 14 in 2010, and since then the Richardsons have taken it upon themselves to try to minimize the number of families who have to endure the same pain they have experienced as a result.
• The B-Sens play their home games at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, which opened in 1973 as the home of the Dusters. With a seating capacity of just 4679 for hockey, the arena is the second-smallest in the AHL. Binghamton averaged 3936 fans per game last season, 24th in the 30-team league.
It’s nearly impossible to project how Evansville’s new affiliation will play out. Every season is unique – different club performance at all levels, different players in the system, different injuries and transactions. But for the sake of trying to make some sort of very rough prediction, let’s look at some numbers…
During the 2013-14 season, the IceMen roster featured a total of 7 players who were sent down by Columbus and Springfield. (This does not include Peter Sakaris, who was already under ECHL contract with Evansville before Springfield signed him to an AHL deal and stashed him in the ECHL all season.) Those 7 affiliate players played a total of 184 games – 41 games for NHL-contracted talent and 143 games for AHL-contracted players. The forwards played 75 games and averaged exactly 1.00 point per game, the defensemen played 65 games and averaged 0.49 points per game, and the lone goaltender played 44 games and finished with a 2.84 Goals-Against Average and a .904 Save Percentage.
During the prior season (2012-13), Evansville’s roster featured a total of 9 players who were assigned by the Blue Jackets and Falcons. Those 9 players played a total of 186 games – 80 games for NHL players and 106 games for AHL talent. The forwards played 103 games (0.66 points per game), the defensemen played 55 games (0.16 points per game), and the goaltenders played 28 games (3.71 GAA and .888 SV%).
Last season (2013-14), Elmira’s roster featured a total of 7 players who were sent down by Ottawa and Binghamton. Those 7 players played a total of 234 games – 133 games for NHL-contracted players and 101 games for AHL-owned players. The forwards played 140 games (0.64 points per game), the defensemen played 63 games (0.32 points per game), and the goaltenders played 31 games (3.29 GAA and .903 SV%).
Among the Jackals who were under NHL contract, forwards Jakub Culek (30 points in 49 games) and Ludwig Karlsson (24 points in 39 games) as well as defenseman Troy Rutkowski (9 points in 41 games) were regulars in Elmira. Three AHL-contracted players spent a good chunk of the season with the Jackals – forward Danny Hobbs (35 points in 52 games), defenseman Daniel New (11 points in 22 games), and goaltender Scott Greenham (3.21/.904 in 27 games). Only Culek and Rutkowski are still under contract.
Goaltender Chris Driedger, Ottawa’s 3rd-round draft pick in 2012, turned pro at the tail end of last season after completing his junior career. Driedger played 4 games for Elmira and made one appearance with Binghamton, and is currently slated to be one of the B-Sens’ netminders this season.
Ottawa has 4 goaltenders under NHL contract. Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner will start the season in the NHL, with Driedger and second-year pro Andrew Hammond likely beginning the year in Binghamton. (Recent draft picks Francois Brassard and Marcus Hogberg will spend the 2014-15 season in the QMJHL and the Swedish Elite League, respectively, and have not yet signed their NHL entry-level contracts.) The Senators organization has not yet signed any goaltenders to AHL contract for the purposes of stashing a spare netminder in the ECHL this season, but it’s a fairly safe bet that the depth chart will expand by one prior to opening day.
So what can we expect to receive from Ottawa and Binghamton in 2014-15? Probably not a whole lot different than we’ve seen with Columbus and Springfield – somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 total games from 3-4 forwards and 2-3 defensemen, with an AHL-contracted goaltender who spends most of the season in the ECHL but also fills in up in the AHL as injuries dictate. But sorry, I won’t even venture a guess about specific players and how they’ll perform for the IceMen. Let’s just hope they’re cut from the same cloth as the likes of Jeremy Langlois and Thomas Larkin!
LINKS OF INTEREST:
OttawaSenators.com • Facebook • Twitter • YouTube
Official Blog (“Inside the Senate”) • Official Message Board
Hockey’s Future Sens Message Board • HockeyFights.com
HockeyDB.com • EliteProspects.com • CapGeek.com
SensChirp.ca Blog • SilverSevenSens.com Blog • The6thSens.com Blog
Ottawa Citizen Sens Coverage • Ottawa Sun Sens Coverage
TSN 1200 CFGO-AM (Flagship Station of the Sens Radio Network)
Yahoo.com • SportsNet.ca • TSN.ca • ESPN.com
BinghamtonSenators.com (BSens.com) • Facebook • Twitter • YouTube
HockeyFights.com • HockeyDB.com • EliteProspects.com
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin B-Sens Coverage
Booster Club Website • Booster Club Facebook Page