The Carolina Hurricanes today made official the news of a new three-year affiliation agreement with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell has a long-standing history with the Wolves organization, and he sat down to answer some questions about the new agreement.
What are the benefits of partnering with the Chicago Wolves?
Waddell: Chicago runs a very first-class organization, and they run it like an NHL team. They have great amenities and their own practice facility, and the arena is less than a mile from the airport. Players want to play for that organization. The Wolves have built a reputation where players know they will be treated well. They want to be there. I can speak from first-hand knowledge and have a lot of history with their owner, Don Levin and GM Wendell Young. We won championships there while developing players, and I think those two go hand-in-hand.
How does this make the Carolina Hurricanes better as an organization?
Waddell: The Wolves are willing to invest in players with us. From that standpoint, we'll be able to do more with our players for less cost. Some of the players we've brought in - what I would call our depth, veteran NHL players - we'll still need to sign those players, and we have a partner that realizes the importance of that and is willing to help financially support bringing in those quality veterans. The Wolves will be a partner, and we appreciate that they are an attractive destination as an organization. These last few weeks with the rumors out there, we're starting to get a lot more calls from agents about placing their players with us knowing that we will be in Chicago.
Video: "I have a long history with the Chicago Wolves."
What does this new affiliation agreement mean for player development, and how does the location impact player call-ups?
Waddell: Our development coaches like Sergei Samsonov, Tim Gleason, Paul Schonfelder and Peter Harrold all have previously spent time in Charlotte to help develop our young players, so this does not change much. If anything, it enhances it. Chicago is a major hub city to fly in and out of for everybody. Before the pandemic started, there were 13 or 14 flights a day from Raleigh to Chicago. It does not matter what part of the country you are in, getting in and out of Chicago is very easy to do.
What type of investments have the Hurricanes made in player development?
Waddell: It all starts with drafting. Darren Yorke oversees our amateur draft. We've changed a lot of the way we approach the draft and assets since Tom Dundon took over as owner of the team. We changed how we move draft picks around to get more assets, and the more assets you have, the better chance you have of players reaching the next level. Once we draft a player, that day is over and then it becomes all about spending the time to develop them. After the draft, we bring in our players to meet with the developmental staff and Bill Burniston, our head strength and conditioning coach, and by the time they leave here, every player has a custom program. Some players need to work on foot speed, some need to work on strength, so Bill and our staff make sure that what each player is focused on will improve them as a hockey player. It's not all about physical fitness, but they all have custom, individual programs they can focus on to help each player become a better hockey player and hopefully a Carolina Hurricane.