The Colorado Eagles announced on Tuesday that they would be leaving the ECHL to join the American Hockey league. As part of the move, the Eagles also announced that they have entered into a 10-year agreement with the Colorado Avalanche to become the NHL’s clubs top minor league affiliate.

The Eagles will play out the 2017-18 season in the ECHL, serving as the ECHL affiliate for the Avalanche, and defend their Kelly Cup Championship in their final year at the AA level. After this season, Colorado will begin play in the AHL.

Here is the official release from the team:

WINDSOR, Colo. – The Colorado Eagles announced Tuesday that the team will join the American Hockey League and begin play in the AHL in 2018-19 season. As a part of the move, the Eagles have also reached a 10-year affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche. Under the agreement, the Eagles will act as the AHL affiliate for any player assigned to the league by the Avalanche.  The Eagles will compete in the ECHL during the 2017-18 season, as the team vies for its second consecutive ECHL Kelly Cup Championship. It will also mark the second straight season in which the Eagles will serve as the Avalanche’s ECHL affiliate.

“This jump to the finest league in minor league sports is the culmination of what has been a tremendous amount of hard work and cooperation between these two great organizations,” said Eagles president and general manager Chris Stewart. “Since the Colorado Eagles were founded fifteen years ago, this team has captured three championships in two different leagues, appeared in the league finals on six separate occasions and given back nearly two million dollars to local charities. It has been a unifying force in the area and has been driven to success by the passion and support of our fans,” Stewart added. “This move will now allow us to take an even bigger step, on a bigger stage, while bringing some of the brightest young stars into our own backyard.”

The Avalanche competes in the Central Division of the NHL’s Western Conference and captured the Stanley Cup in both 1996 and 2001. The Avs have also claimed nine division titles since arriving in Denver in 1995 and still hold the NHL record for consecutive sellouts with 487.  Five Avalanche-affiliated players helped make up the Eagles playoff roster in 2017, helping push Colorado to its first ECHL Kelly Cup Championship.

“I have always felt Northern Colorado is exceptional and the opportunity to acquire this AHL franchise puts the very pinnacle of exceptionalism solidly in the Budweiser Events Center,” said Eagles CEO Martin Lind. “The incredible relationship with Joe Sakic, Craig Billington and the great Avalanche organization created this opportunity, but it was our fan base that gave us the confidence to seize it. The Colorado Eagles will now be firmly concreted into the greatest minor league in all of sports and we expect to become model operators and continue our tradition of winning excellence in this league.”

“We are thrilled to begin this partnership with the Eagles franchise,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Sakic. “The Eagles are a first-class organization with a history of winning and we would like to thank (Eagles CEO) Martin Lind and his entire staff for all their hard work on this.  We are excited that Avalanche fans can now see our top prospects competing and developing in an outstanding environment just up the road.”

The Eagles will open up their final season in the ECHL on Friday night as they host the Utah Grizzlies to begin their title defense.

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