Sunrise, Fla. – The Florida Panthers announced today that the club has entered into a four-year agreement with the Portland Pirates, making the Portland Pirates its American Hockey League affiliate starting next season. The announcement was made jointly by Florida Panthers Executive Vice President & General Manager Dale Tallon and Portland Pirates Chief Operating Officer Brad Church.
“We are extremely pleased to announce this new affiliation with Portland,” said Tallon. “Portland is a great hockey town, and we look forward to our prospects continuing to grow and develop in a successful and winning culture in Portland.”
“I also would like to thank Rick Pych and Spurs Sports & Entertainment for partnering with the Panthers during the last four seasons. It truly has been a pleasure working with a first-class organization. In addition, we would like to thank all of the terrific fans in San Antonio who have supported our AHL team there. We look forward to a solid finish this season in San Antonio, while qualifying for the Calder Cup playoffs.”
Eric Joyce, who currently serves as San Antonio’s General Manager, will serve in the same position in Portland, overseeing all matters related to the club’s minor league hockey operations. San Antonio currently has a 35-20-5-1 record and sits in fourth place in the Western Conference.
“Portland is a vibrant city and hockey-rich market that will provide our prospects with an exceptional environment for growth and development,” said Joyce. “The Pirates roster will include our organization’s top prospects who will compete hard and play an exciting style of hockey for the fans of Portland.”
“We are very excited about this partnership. Florida is a great organization, headed in the right direction in the NHL’s Eastern Conference,” said Church. “With an exciting roster built around promising young players, our fans will have the chance to see their prospects complete the full development process which will begin here in Portland.”
The Portland Pirates, established in 1993 after the relocation of the Baltimore Skipjacks, is the fourth-longest tenured AHL franchise operating continuously in its current market. Currently in its 22nd season, Portland is only surpassed by the Hershey Bears (established 1938), the Rochester Americans (1956), and the Providence Bruins (1992) in longevity in their current cities.
The Pirates won the AHL’s top prize, the Calder Cup, in 1994 and reached the Calder Cup Final again in 1996. Portland reached the AHL’s Eastern Conference Final in 2006 and 2008. The Pirates have qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs a total of 15 times.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams with more than 87% of today's NHL players being American Hockey League graduates.