Portland, ME – Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney remembers about having nightmares coming to the Cumberland County Civic Center during his playing days back in the late 70’s with the New Haven Nighthawks. He hopes to instill some of that same fear into the opposition when they face the Portland Pirates this fall.
The Coyotes plan to bring some of that same grit, determination and skill that Pirates fans have become accustomed to over the last several years with the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres.
“Our goal in the American Hockey League is no different than in the National Hockey League and that is to win a championship,” said Maloney. “Ask about winning vs. development and for us it’s about developing a winning environment. You look at what’s going on in Hershey over the last few years. They are a model of success on how you can have success with a young group of hard working players and develop players at the same time.”
The Portland Pirates and Phoenix Coyotes announced on Monday a new long-term affiliation agreement that will see the Western Conference team move their minor league operations from San Antonio, Texas to Portland.
“I want to express how excited we are to be in Portland,” said Maloney. “We had a very good relationship with our affiliate in San Antonio, but for myself living in the Northeast and New York area for 30 years… Going into an established AHL city with quality people, great development situation, great fan support, a knowledgeable fan base and a demanding fanbase I think is important to have success on the ice.”
The Coyotes were affiliated with San Antonio for the past six seasons and Maloney had only glowing things to say about the area, however, Maloney, who spent 11 of 13 years playing for the New York Rangers and was the General Manager of the Harford Wolf Pack when they won the Calder Cup in 1999, was looking to move his prospects further east.
In all candor probably from the time I got this job,” said Maloney referring to the point he began to look for another affiliate. “I don’t want to disrespect San Antonio because they were great partners. From our point (of view) to be in a hockey environment to have more practice time. We just found the wear and tear on the players over time (in San Antonio) was a little tougher. Although, there are teams in the Southwest that have had success I’m a big New England believer in pro hockey. I’ve seen it. We had some good success with Hartford and we hope bring the same kind of success to Portland.”
Maloney said that Brad Treliving, who was the GM for San Antonio will become the new GM for the Pirates, a position that wasn’t filled under the Buffalo Sabres, and would be responsible for all player transactions regarding the club. Ray Edwards will join Treliving from San Antonio becoming the seventh head coach in Pirates franchise history.
During the press conference held at the Cumberland County Civic Center this afternoon, Pirates Managing Owner and CEO Brian Petrovek spoke to the Coyotes raising the bar set by previous affiliation in Anaheim and Buffalo and that he was impressed by the Coyotes plan for the future.
“We were looking for an organization that was willing to take on the task, first and foremost, of raising the bar further than what Washington, Anaheim and Buffalo had over these last 11 years since we bought the franchise,” said Petrovek.
The Coyotes are more known for their off-ice issues as they are currently owned by the NHL after filing for bankruptcy in 2009. The franchise has almost been moved once to Winnipeg, Manitoba before the City of Glendale offered to cover the losses to the tune of $25 million. Still, prospects of the franchise’s survival, if an owner isn’t found, is slim at best and now speculation is with Winnipeg finally getting a franchise that Quebec City, who has a proposal to building a new facility, might be next in line.
Petrovek said that prospects of moving to Quebec City did not factor into a deal with Phoenix.
“We did not choose to affiliate with Phoenix because we assume they are going to move Quebec City,” he said. “Our assumption is there will be a new owner in Phoenix and that could happen sooner rather than later. If there is a move out of (Arizona) at some point in time, it will be one that surprises us and one that we’ll respond too. We don’t expect the Coyotes to move from Arizona. If it happens, it happens, but it was not a part of the process we went through to choose a relationship with the Phoenix Coyotes.”
For Treliving, the off-ice issues aren’t factor when it pertains to the minor league organization.
“Obviously, it’s something talked about and read about and reported on and it’s sort of become our new normal here,” said Treliving. “Quite frankly, I spend time in San Antonio and it’s really had no impact in our team other than the players read the same stories that everybody else does. As for the day-to-day on goings… our position from a players stand point is it really has no effect and especially with players in the American Hockey League.”
“Their job, their role and their responsibility is to come to the rink and prepare to get better each and every day. They have enough on their plate.”
Treliving as indicated that despite the ownership issues they plan to be active in the free agency market finding the playing that fit not only a need in Phoenix, but in Portland.
“Our scouts are here,” he said. “We’ve had our meetings and we have a list of guys who we feel fit the mold with us and were interested in. It’s just to see who hits the market and who is signed. We plan to be aggressive early on to get the players we want to get.”