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Ducks Announce AHL Partnership with Syracuse

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks announced today they have signed a multi-year affiliation agreement with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League (AHL) beginning in the 2010-11 season.

“We are thrilled to be affiliating with the Syracuse Crunch in such a great hockey market,” said Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. “Syracuse is steeped in hockey tradition and we are excited to partner with an ownership and management team that shares the same commitment to winning and player development as we do.”

The Ducks return to the AHL following a one-year absence in 2009-10. Since 2005-06, Anaheim’s AHL affiliate has combined for a 168-109-17-26 record in 320 games (.620 winning percentage). From 2005-08, Anaheim was affiliated with the Portland Pirates, who reached Game 7 of the AHL Eastern Conference Finals in two of three seasons (2006 & 2008). The Ducks spent the 2008-09 season affiliated with the Iowa Chops, who posted a 33-33-4-10 record.

Since the 2005-06 season, the Ducks have had numerous players make their NHL debuts with Anaheim who have also played for the club’s AHL affiliates. Those current Ducks players include forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Carter, Matt Beleskey and Troy Bodie, goaltender Jonas Hiller, and defensemen Brett Festerling and Brendan Mikkelson.

The Syracuse Crunch are currently in their 16th year of operation in the American Hockey League and tied for the sixth-longest tenure of any AHL team. Led by the AHL’s longest current independent ownership group, the Crunch hosted the AHL’S first-ever outdoor game at the New York State Fairgrounds on Feb. 20, 2010, setting a league single-game attendance record of 21,508.

“This is an honor and thrill for our organization, to partner with the Anaheim Ducks – one of the truly elite franchises in the National Hockey League,” said Crunch President and CEO Howard Dolgon. “They are a team with a proven winning track record on both the NHL and minor league levels and have highly experienced and very well-respected hockey people running their operation. We look forward to a long and successful relationship and can't wait to get started.”

Anaheim is the third primary affiliate in Syracuse team history. The Crunch were previously affiliated with Vancouver from 1994-00 and Columbus from 2000-10. Syracuse also maintained a split affiliation with Vancouver and Pittsburgh during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 AHL seasons.

Ducks Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations David McNab commented on the affiliation agreement Thursday afternoon:

On the process of getting the deal done,
[Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager] Bob [Murray] did all the preparation work with the league in finding out which teams were available and doing everything as far as that goes and making the first call that we were interested.

Both sides wanted to get a deal done. They were interested in us and vice versa. It wasn’t that tricky. Each city has their own particular issues that you have to work through for an affiliation agreement. But we’ve done a lot of these deals and [Crunch owner] Howard [Dolgon] has done a lot of them, so it wasn’t like either one of us was trying to reinvent the wheel. We were trying to get a deal done and it was relatively easy.

On not having an AHL affiliate this season,
It’s hard for the players. Everybody got treated well and got ice time, but it’s tough because no matter where you are, you’re not going to be the first concern of the coaching staff. That’s no different than when we have players come up from other organizations. You treat them well, you play them, but are they on the ice in the last minute of a third period or in key overtime situations? No. It’s just human nature that you’re not going to jeopardize the development of your own players for players from another organization. They just didn’t have any sort of common friends or a common bond. It’s been tough on them being bounced around, so I felt bad for them sometimes. But the players handled it well. They’ve all developed and they’ve all worked hard and had no complaints. They made the best of it and performed professionally.

On having an affiliate on the East Coast,
Ideally, we’d like to be further west, but the majority of the American League is out east and the scheduling and the traveling and the practice times in the east are all way better than in the west. So, what you might lose in certain things, you gain in the fact that your players are not as tired and not traveling as much and don’t have as many long road trips. In the American Hockey League, you’re supposed to get as much practice in as you can because it’s supposed to be a development league. The east is often the better place to be right now, until there is a whole influx of teams out west. 

In all the years we’ve had an affiliation – whether it be Cincinnati, Portland, Des Moines – we’ve never had an issue with wanting to bring a player here on the morning of a game and they didn’t get here. Obviously, there are times when you run into weather issues, but that can happen anywhere. It would be different if we were an east coast team and had an affiliate in the west, where you’re losing three hours. Coming from east to west, you’re gaining three hours. If we want to put a player on a plane in Syracuse at 9 in the morning, he’ll be here at 2 in the afternoon. So, there really aren’t issues with that.

On when players report to Syracuse,
Just like any other season, it will be basically after training camp. All the players come here and then we make decisions and they get assigned to Syracuse.

On hiring a coach,
We’ve got a list of prospective coaches. It’s different because of Columbus announcing they’re leaving and then us announcing we’re going to Syracuse, it’s during the season, so it’s a little different. Usually these things are done in the summertime, and right now everybody is in the middle of their seasons. It definitely won’t be until the summertime, but there really isn’t a timeframe right now. I told Syracuse it would be two months, but it could be sooner, it could be longer. You want to make sure you get the right guy and make sure the season is over for everybody at all levels. That’s not on the front burner right now.

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