DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings and American Hockey League's Grand Rapids Griffins today announced a five-year extension of their affiliation agreement. The Red Wings will continue their 15-year partnership with the Griffins, who won the Calder Cup in 2017, through at least the 2021-22 season.
The expiring five-year deal, signed prior to the 2012-13 campaign, has covered the most successful run in Griffins' franchise history, bookended by the first two championships in the history of professional hockey in Grand Rapids in 2013 and 2017. Additionally, the proximity between the two teams makes it one of the most convenient NHL/AHL partnerships, as Little Caesars Arena is located just 157 miles away from Van Andel Arena, home to the Griffins since the franchise's inception in 1996-97.
"Our arrangement with the Griffins has been very beneficial for both organizations," said Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland. "The American Hockey League is the premier development league, and Grand Rapids has proven itself to be a model franchise both on and off the ice. We are thrilled that the Griffins have captured two championships in five seasons, both for the fan base in west Michigan and for the development of our young players, who benefit from long playoff runs and championship atmospheres."
The Red Wings will continue to oversee the Griffins' day-to-day hockey operations, led by Red Wings Assistant General Manager Ryan Martin, who also serves as the Griffins' general manager. Detroit is also responsible for providing Grand Rapids with its playing roster, through NHL-contracted players and AHL-only contracts, and also supplies its coaching staff, equipment managers and athletic trainers. Additionally, the new agreement ensures that Grand Rapids will host at least one Red & White Game over the next five years. The Griffins have hosted four such intrasquad games, most recently in 2011.
Since the Red Wings and Griffins originally affiliated prior to the 2002-03 season, 85 players have gone on to skate with the Red Wings after suiting up for the Griffins, including 31 of the 36 players who played in at least one game for Detroit in 2016-17. Ten of those players were members of the Griffins' 2013 championship squad: forwards Mitch Callahan, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar; defensemen Danny DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff and Brendan Smith; and goaltender Petr Mrazek, in addition to seven other players who saw NHL time after capturing the Calder Cup. Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill served as the Griffins' head coach from 2012-15, becoming the only coach in franchise history to qualify for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, before taking over as Detroit's head coach prior to the 2015-16 campaign.
"The relationship between the Griffins and the Red Wings is stronger than ever as we work together to develop their young players in a winning environment," said Scott Gorsline, senior vice president of DP Fox and alternate governor for the Griffins. "Ken Holland, Ryan Martin and the entire Red Wings organization are great partners and have delivered for our fans, with two Calder Cup championships here in Grand Rapids over the last five years."
The Griffins have qualified for the AHL's postseason in five-straight years, matching the longest run in franchise history (2000-04) and have accumulated a 225-124-14-17 regular-season record since 2012-13, marking the most wins by any AHL franchise in that period. The Griffins are also one of just two teams to reach at least the second round of the AHL playoffs in five-straight seasons since the league expanded to 16 playoff teams in 2005, and they are one of just three active AHL teams to win two Calder Cups in a five-year span. Off the ice, the team has averaged 8,000-or-more fans in four consecutive seasons and ranked fifth in AHL attendance in 2016-17.
In the 15-year history of the affiliation, the Red Wings have won one Stanley Cup (2008), reached the conference finals three times (2007, 2008, 2009) and won three Presidents' Trophies (2004, 2006, 2008) and seven division championships (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), while the Griffins have captured two Calder Cups (2013, 2017), advanced to the conference finals five times (2003, 2006, 2013, 2015, 2017) and won one Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy for best AHL regular-season record (2006) and four division titles (2003, 2006, 2013, 2015).