The Chicago Blackhawks announced today the team has signed an affiliation agreement with the Fresno Falcons of the ECHL, the leading professional development league for the American Hockey League and National Hockey League.
“We are very excited about our agreement with Fresno,” Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon said. “Our young players will have the chance to develop in a wonderful hockey atmosphere with an organization that has a great track record.”
The Falcons have played in the ECHL since 2003 under an NHL affiliation agreement with the San Jose Sharks, compiling a .565 regular-season winning percentage (181-134-45), while reaching the postseason each of the last three years. Prior to that, Fresno competed in the now defunct West Coast Hockey League (WCHL) from 1995 to 2003, which includes capturing the 2001 Taylor Cup.
The Falcons are operated by an ownership group that is led by Managing Partner Christopher Cummings and Partners Arline Parfitt, Brian Glover and William J. Cummings Sr.
Matt Thomas, 32, has coached the Falcons for the last three years, which includes leading the squad to the second-best record in the ECHL’s National Conference last season (42-22-4-4). Professional hockey in Fresno, California dates back to 1946 and includes stops in the Pacific Coast Hockey League, Cal-Neva Hockey League and Pacific Southwest Hockey League.
"We are very excited about affiliating with the Fresno Falcons for the upcoming 2008-09 season," said Blackhawks General Manager of Minor League Affiliates Mark Bernard. "We are happy to have head coach Matt Thomas working with the young Chicago Blackhawks prospects and we know that he'll do a terrific job in helping along their development."
The 2008-09 campaign will mark the second year of the Chicago’s AHL affiliation with the Rockford IceHogs. Last season, the Blackhawks recalled 18 players from Rockford for NHL action.