The San Jose Sharks announced today that they reached an affiliation agreement for the 2010-11 season with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL.
The announcement was made during a press conference this morning by San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager, Doug Wilson, and Vice President and Assistant General Manager, Wayne Thomas.
“We’re really excited to join into a partnership with the Stockton Thunder as their ECHL affiliate,” Wilson said. “The Thunder in particular have really fought for a great tradition of success on and off the ice. And for us, it makes perfect sense for our franchise, I think we’re located right around 80 miles apart, so we’re entering a beneficial hockey partnership.”
The location and success of the Stockton franchise was one of the most important factors in the Sharks decision.
“We looked for a place where hockey is important in the community,” said Thomas. “And the response from the fans from Stockton have given to the Thunder over the past five years are making a lot of people in minor league hockey envious.”
The location also provides the Sharks with the ability to watch and monitor the development of their players more closely.
“We believe very strongly in drafting and developing players,” Wilson said. “Sometimes it takes a little longer period of time…We’ve always told our own players in our organization that if you work hard and pay your dues, we’ll give you your first opportunity. So we’re never reluctant to give our own players a call-up and get them here.”
“So the geographic situation [with Stockton] certainly allows us to do that on a more regular basis but it also gives us the ability to have our staff get in and work with the players and support [Thunder Head Coach] Matt Thomas.”
The positive responses from former Thunder players about the organization also played a large role in deciding to partner with the organization.
“We know kids that have played [in Stockton] and have gone through our organization and had great things to say about how they’re treated not only by the team, but also in the community,” Thomas said.
The Sharks will be joining the Edmonton Oilers as the Thunder’s second NHL affiliate. Individuals involved with the organizations hope this unity will help create a competitive atmosphere that enhances the players’ development.
“We want to create a culture that gives the players the feeling that they can win and develop at the same time, and more importantly, get the opportunity to move up in their career,” said Thunder Head Coach, Matt Thomas. “Aligning yourself with two great organizations that have a history of development…I think what you’re going to see is a much more motivated group.” Wilson echoed the benefit of friendly competition when asked about a possible exhibition game between the Sharks and Oilers players on the Thunder.
“We like the idea of a rivalry, which is healthy,” Wilson said. “I would have no problem with that type of concept.”
Sharks radio-broadcaster, Dan Rusanowsky, also believes the friendly rivalry will benefit all three organizations involved.
“The best rivalry, which certainly happens on the ice, is accentuated by the work the Sharks and Oilers do together now to try to develop players,” Rusanowsky said.
The Sharks are happy that the deal, which took over a year to finalize, is now official, but they are even more excited about the future benefits of the partnership.
“This is a relationship that is going to work and will be first class,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of synergy and relationships that makes this just a great fit…It’ll be exciting for where we go from here.”