At a press conference today at the Ford Center, the Evansville IceMen announced the renewal of the organization’s affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and their AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons.
The event featured IceMen Owner Ron Geary, IceMen Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Jeff Pyle, and (by phone) Blue Jackets Assistant General Manager Chris MacFarland.
Pyle told IceMenManiacs.com that the agreement is a one-year deal, and that it will likely be the team’s only official affiliation for the 2013-14 season. However, he also said that he has been in touch with a few other NHL and AHL teams that do not have an ECHL affiliate, and would be open to accepting a few assignments from elsewhere if quality players become available.
The IceMen expect to have 4-7 players sent down via the Columbus/Springfield affiliation, including one goaltender. Pyle said that Evansville already has “about 15″ players signed to ECHL contracts, including 8-10 returning players from the 2012-13 IceMen. The coach did, however, stipulate that no players are guaranteed a spot on the regular season roster if they do not perform well during training camp.
Pyle said Columbus pushed to make the affiliation a two-year deal, but he preferred to align for just the coming season and take a “wait and see” approach to subsequent seasons, hoping to ensure that the IceMen are part of a mutually beneficial arrangement.
This news appears to officially bring to an end the team’s other 2012-13 affiliation with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. The Blues recently sold their AHL affiliate (the Peoria Rivermen) to the Vancouver Canucks, who then moved the AHL franchise to Utica, New York. The Chicago Wolves will now serve as the Blues’ AHL affiliate and have signed an affiliation deal with the CHL’s Missouri Mavericks, while the Rivermen have resurfaced as an expansion team in the SPHL.
Visit EvansvilleIceMen.com to read the team’s official press release about the Columbus/Springfield affiliation.