The Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club announced Sunday that it has signed a long-term affiliation agreement with the new American Hockey League franchise in Cleveland, which will begin play in the 2007-2008 season.
"It has always been this organization's goal to have our own independent farm team where we could develop prospects with our philosophy," said Avalanche Executive Vice President & General Manager Francois Giguere. "This organization in Cleveland is committed to building a strong hockey team and we're looking forward to being a part of that effort.
"We'll have most of our prospects on the same team, which should help their development as well as their understanding of our culture and philosophy," added Giguere.
The Avalanche organization has a history with the American Hockey League dating back to 1995-96 when the Cornwall Aces served as the club's primary affiliate. After that first season, Colorado would have affiliation agreements with AHL clubs in Hershey, Pa. (1996-2005); Lowell, Mass. (2005-2006) and Albany, N.Y. (2006-2007).
"We're excited to begin this relationship with the club in Cleveland," said Avalanche Assistant General Manager Greg Sherman, who will serve as the organization's primary contact with the Cleveland franchise. "This is a very strong and experienced organization in Cleveland and we're convinced that this affiliation will be mutually beneficial."
The new Cleveland franchise was previously operated as the Utah Grizzlies in the AHL before their AHL franchise rights were purchased by a group led by Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, in May of this year. Gilbert is also Chairman and Founder of the nation's largest online home mortgage lender, Quicken Loans, Inc.
"We look forward to our new relationship with one of the premier organizations in the NHL. We'll approach our hockey team the same way we approach everything with the Cavaliers and at Quicken Loans Arena. That is, we simply want to be the best franchise in the AHL and we know the Avalanche want that as well," said Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena President Len Komoroski.
The history of hockey in Cleveland dates back to the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League which played in the city from 1936-1972. After two years in the National Hockey League (1976-78) and another 14 seasons with both the International Hockey League and the AHL from 1992-2006, the American Hockey League returns to Cleveland for the 2007-08 season.
"The Avalanche have a very high operating standard for us to focus on. We're confident the players they are developing with us will have a great environment to reach their potential, not only at The Q, but also at our new, dedicated training facilities at Iceland USA in Strongsville (Ohio), which we feel are the very best in the region," added Cleveland AHL team President Kerry Bubolz.