After three years of plucking players from teams across the ECHL on an as needed basis, the Portland Pirates will once again have an affiliate to call their own in times of injuries or recalls to the Phoenix Coyotes.
On Wednesday, the Coyotes announced that the Gwinnett Gladiators will be the organization’s new ECHL affiliate after signing a one-year deal.
The Pirates last affiliation in the ECHL was from 2006 til 2008 when they partnered with the now defunct Augusta Lynx as the Pirates former NHL parent club, the Anaheim Ducks placed several former draft picks and prospects with the Northern Georgia franchise.
When the Buffalo Sabres arrived, they opted not to have an ECHL affiliate, instead allowing former head coach Kevin Dineen to ability to recall players from several teams on as needed basis. During Dineen’s tenure, it did bare success with several players including Kyle Rank and Mark Voakes, who turned their on-ice success into AHL contracts.
It also had its downfall because the Pirates were left at times with barely enough players to ice a team due to a rash of injuries to the NHL club.The Coyotes had previously been with the Las Vegas Wranglers for the last two seasons, but when they moved their AHL affiliation from San Antonio to Portland in May, it became a priority to also move their ECHL affiliation to the east as well.
“With the location of Portland, it was important to have an ECHL team located in the east,” said Pirates General Manager Brad Treliving. “They have consistently proven to be an elite organization within the ECHL and we look forward to having our young prospects continue their development in Gwinnett.”
The Gladiators, who play it’s games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia, a nearby suburb of Atlanta, will provide fairly easy player movement for the Pirates with the several flights daily between the Portland International Jetport and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
The affiliation agreement, unlike the Pirates five-year deal with the Coyotes, is only for one-year as it gives both sides an opportunity to “get to know each other” according to Treliving.
Gwinnett President Steve Chapman admitted that he was initially hesitant about partnering with the Coyotes because of current turmoil with the team’s lack of ownership and experiences with their former affiliate, the Atlanta Thrashers, who recently relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
However, those fears were abated after several conversations with Treliving.
“At first I wasn’t real sure about a potential affiliation with Phoenix just kind of based on the situation of last year,” said Chapman. “If anybody in Atlanta understands what’s going on in Phoenix. It’s certainly us. But, after I talked with (Pirates GM) Brad (Treliving), I know Brad. I trust him and we had a very good talk.”
“I told Brad what we were looking for and I told him we understood our role in the process. I told him we what to develop players. We’ve always been committed to developing players, but I also told him that we found an NHL affiliate understood what we needed and at least cared about their ECHL affiliate.”