After going through last season as one of three ECHL teams to not have an NHL & AHL affiliation last season, the Alaska Aces will be paired with the Vancouver Canucks next season.
The Canucks AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, are based in Utica, NY which is a nine-hour flight spanning four time zones. If one were to drive it, its only a cozy 73 hours and 4,256 miles.
“We are pleased to enter into a new development partnership with the Aces,” said Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden. “The community of Anchorage has a rich history of developing players that have had success at the National Hockey League level. We’re excited to continue this tradition with the Aces and provide our prospects with an excellent environment for growth.”
This will be the sixth ECHL affiliation for the Canucks. The closest was the Victoria Salmon Kings, who they were paired with from 2006-11. The Canucks ended their affiliation with the Kalamazoo Wings before the start of last season.
“As an organization we are extremely excited about this opportunity. We as a group feel that having Vancouver, the closest NHL team in proximity to Alaska, will give our fan base another team to cheer for,” said Aces Head Coach and President of Hockey Operations Rob Murray. “The parity in the ECHL has gotten stronger over the past few years and we felt it imperative to find an affiliation to help with not only recruiting but providing depth to the Aces. We will also be working closely with Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica throughout the 2016-17 season.”
Today’s news now means that currently, the Colorado Eagles and Wichita Thunder are the only two unaffiliated teams left in the ECHL. But Thunder team sources indicate to The Sin Bin that the organization is continuing to work diligently toward getting the team an AHL & NHL affiliate prior to the start of next season.