CINCINNATI, OH – During a summer of many questions facing the Cincinnati Cyclones organization, one of those questions were answered on Thursday night. It was announced that the Norfolk Admirals would serve as the new ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals for the 2017-18 season.
In a league where things seem to be in constant motion, the one thing that had stayed consistent in the world of minor league hockey is now no more. For ten years, since the 2007-08 season, Cincinnati had served as the ‘AA’ affiliate in Nashville’s farm system, and on Thursday, the two parties stood in the courthouse and signed off on the divorce papers to officially nullify the marriage. This meaning, the Cyclones will have a new NHL/AHL affiliation next season.
It’s a shame a good thing had to come to an end as multiple names that were once little people in Cincinnati wound up playing in the show in Music City. Anthony Bitetto, Magnus Hellberg, Mark Van Guilder, Kevin Henderson, Chris Mueller, Mark Dekanich, Frederick Gaudreau, and Mike Liambas are among that class of players who began their professional hockey journeys in Cincinnati and made it all the way to the top. Gaudreau and Liambas both made their NHL debuts just earlier this season.
It was an unfortunate day but one we all knew would come eventually. After the lackluster year affiliation wise with Nashville/Milwaukee where a grand total of three players from the Predators organization were sent to Cincinnati, you had to wonder if a change of scenery would be needed on both sides. The sense I got from people was the affiliation had just gone stale and it was time for a change. It may not seem like it, but change can be a good thing. This will give Cincinnati fans a chance to check out some fresh faces, some new prospects from a new organization and that should re-energize us all.
Even though something new will be coming in, it’s hard to forget about all the success the Cyclones enjoyed with the Predators, and for that, we’ll always be thankful. Norfolk is getting the opportunity to be part of one hell of organization in Nashville and Milwaukee that is full of tremendous people. Admirals (Norfolk) fans have every reason to be excited right now. But good luck with the Admirals-on-Admirals action and assigning players from the Admirals to… well, the Admirals.
Now comes the fun of looking for a new affiliation. 13 affiliation deals between ECHL and NHL teams expired this season, including Cincinnati/Nashville. There were also four NHL teams who didn’t have an ECHL affiliation this past season plus the NHL’s newest expansion team in Vegas. The other 16 organizations the Cyclones could potentially join:
|NHL Team||AHL Team||ECHL Affiliate in 16-17 (now expired)|
|Columbus||Cleveland||No ECHL affiliate in 16-17|
|Florida||Springfield||No ECHL affiliate in 16-17|
|New Jersey||Binghamton||No ECHL affiliate in 16-17|
|St. Louis||Chicago||No ECHL affiliate in 16-17|
|San Jose||San Jose||Allen|
It would appear Columbus/Cleveland is currently the clear front-runner for the Cyclones new affiliation. The past two years, the Cyclones have had a great relationship with Columbus through a working agreement that has seen the likes of Seth Ambroz, Peter Quenneville, Brad Thiessen, Jacob Graves, and Michael Houser come through Cincinnati.
Plus, if you’re the Blue Jackets, having both your ECHL and AHL affiliate literally right up the road is something most NHL teams would die to have. Although nothing is set in stone yet, in my personal opinion, it makes too much sense not to happen. We’ll find out together as now it’s just a matter of playing the waiting game.