KALAMAZOO, MI— The Kalamazoo Wings have partnered on a one-year deal to become the ECHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL) and Syracuse Crunch (AHL), the team announced Wednesday. The Lightning will become the 11th NHL affiliate in the Wings’ 43-year history.
As the premier ECHL affiliate for the Lightning, both Tampa Bay and Syracuse will be able to assign players who are on NHL or AHL contracts to Kalamazoo.
“We can’t wait to get to work with Tampa Bay,” Wings head coach Nick Bootland said. “They have been a hot-bed of talent in the last few years and their organization has been great to work with already.”
Established in 1992, the Tampa Bay Lightning are representatives of the NHL’s Atlantic Division, and have appeared twice in the Stanley Cup Final, winning the trophy in 2004 and falling in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015.
“We are very happy to welcome the Kalamazoo Wings to the Lightning organization today,” Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said. “The Wings have maintained a strong commitment to success and we are proud to partner with them. We look forward to furthering the development of our prospects in the ECHL while helping the K-Wings win the Kelly Cup next season.”
Tampa Bay finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 46-31-5, and have won at least 46 games in three straight seasons. The Lightning have established one of the league’s most talented rosters since Steve Yzerman’s appointment as general manager in 2010. The Lightning are currently facing Pittsburgh for their second straight Eastern Conference championship and appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Syracuse Crunch, who have been the AHL affiliates of the Lightning since 2012, finished the 2015-16 season with a 32-29-11-4 record for 79 points and finished fourth in the AHL’s North Division. As the assistant general manager of the Lightning, BriseBois’ duties include that of general manager of Syracuse, and he will work closely with Bootland and the Wings.
“Julien has great knowledge of talent and the game,” Bootland said. “Just in the time we’ve had on the phone, it’s easy to see why he’s so respected around the hockey community.”
The relationship between Kalamazoo and Tampa Bay includes former Kalamazoo Wings forward Yanni Gourde, who made his NHL debut this season with the Lightning on December 15, 2015.