RALEIGH, N.C. – Even when two teams are close in proximity, affiliations are never safe in professional hockey. After the Springfield Thunderbirds announced the St. Louis Blues as their new NHL affiliate in early March, rumors began circulating regarding the Carolina Hurricanes picking up the Chicago Wolves as a new AHL partner, which left the Florida Panthers grabbing the Charlotte Checkers as their new AHL farm club.
Just shy of two months later, the Hurricanes appear to have made their move.
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) initially reported the news on Wednesday, detailing that while the new affiliation agreement is not official yet, it could be solidified after a May 8 league conference call that may very well cancel the rest of the AHL’s 2019-20 season.
“Nothing’s done yet, but certainly we’re looking at all of our options,” Carolina General Manager Don Waddell stated. “Chicago is certainly one of them.”
The Hurricanes did leave hope for a future agreement between themselves and the Checkers with just a one-year agreement in the works with the Wolves for 2020-21. However, Carolina and Charlotte took until the middle of training camp before a similar single-year agreement was scraped together for 2019-20. This seeming disconnect between the two also caused the Checkers to lose a championship-caliber coach.
The Sin Bin’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins correspondent Brent Baldwin remembers a conversation with former Charlotte Head Coach Mike Vellucci, who was hired on by the Penguins in late June 2019 after winning an AHL title with the Checkers just weeks before.
“When WBS hired Vellucci, he said something on a conference call that I filed away because I found it curious. When they won the Calder Cup, there was almost no communication with Carolina about bringing him back. That’s how he wound up with (the) Pittsburgh (organization).”
Charlotte released an official statement on their website hours after the original story broke.
“While we are aware that the Carolina Hurricanes are nearing an affiliation agreement with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, the Hurricanes have had little dialogue with us regarding this matter.
In an era when NHL teams are placing great value on affiliations with closer proximity between the two clubs, we understand the confusion that such a move would cause.
We will explore other options for our affiliation and look forward to continuing in the American Hockey League when play resumes.”