Take a look at this article about the affiliation rumors. Take from it what you will, but the end result is that we really need to keep on supporting the guys on the ice. Answers will come when the parties involved want to give us the answers.
Thanks to Scott for this well written article.You can catch this article and more over at the Daily Press’ HRtownsquare.com Admirals Snapshots forum.
For over a year now Tampa has expressed an interest in possibly relocating its AHL affiliate closer to other AHL teams to cut back on travel time. GM Steve Yzerman has commented more than once that the extended travel time has resulted in a significant loss of practice time and in moving the team further north they would be able to take advantage of the shorter trips, thus making up for the lost practices and less time that the team is stuck on a bus. Mr Yzerman is of course correct, as the Admirals closest opponent is a 5-6 hour trip, and the travel time only increases from there, even going so high as 18-20 hours on a bus. It’s only natural, and of course makes good business sense, to reduce travel time for the sake of the players. While it is a proven fact that long bus rides and extended road trips do a great deal for the bonding of the players, financially it makes sense to want several rivals within a couple of hours vice 6. So what happens next?
In an article to come later this week I’ll detail an interview I had with Admirals’ VP Joe Gregory about the basics behind finding and signing an affiliation. But the bottom line is, as in all businesses, both sides do their due diligence in finding the best fit for their short term and long term goals. From year to year affiliation agreements end which opens the door for new agreements to be signed. Most times using the AHL offices to make the introductions, teams may target location, resources, finances, and strength of the local market as a few of many reasons to sign an agreement that looks to be mutually beneficial to both teams. From there, details are agreed upon and the affiliation is signed. The parent club then stocks the AHL roster and uses the minor league team to develop its players, using call-ups to supplement roster holes that need filled.
During the period that the Lightning have been discussing moving their affiliate, one team in particular, the Syracuse Crunch, have been mentioned in almost every conversation. Syracuse would provide the location Tampa Bay is looking for, being in close proximity to multiple AHL teams, and, conveniently enough, had an opportunity to end its own affiliation with parent club Anaheim. As it turns out, the announcement ending Syracuse’s affiliation with Anaheim came back on Feb 29, with Syracuse owner Howard Dolgon revealed that the Crunch were not exercising their option to extend the affiliation after only 2 seasons. This past Saturday, March 3rd, Dolgon made another announcement that he had indeed reached an agreement with a new affiliate, but declined to provide the name of the team. Neither Norfolk nor Tampa released statements of their own, so here we are at the intersection of rumor and speculation.
Of course, on the outset it would seem logical to assume the new affiliation is between the Crunch and the Lightning. It makes sense on many levels, and fulfills the wants and needs of both clubs. It would also make sense that neither Norfolk or Tampa would make any statement right now, especially if Norfolk has not signed its own affiliate for next season. However, assumption has a long history of making smart people look like fools, and at this point in time, barring any reports from either Norfolk or Tampa, assumption is the only way to arrive at any conclusion. There are a few other affiliations that are also up at the end of the season, and the three NHL teams that could potentially be looking to relocate are Anaheim, Tampa, and the Florida Panthers. Again, speculation is that Anaheim would look to move to San Antonio, Tampa to Syracuse, and Florida to Norfolk. Again, there is nothing out there to lend credibility to those matches, but there are plenty of hockey “geniuses” who believe it’s all but a done deal. Fact is folks, there just aren’t enough facts out there to draw any real conclusions…..Yet.
I’ve spoken with multiple Norfolk Admirals staff members, all of whom confirm that the reason no statements have been released is because–wait for it–there is nothing to release a statement about. At last check Norfolk was still in talks with Tampa as well as exploring other options, which of course would only make sense for the Admirals to not put all its eggs in one basket. At this point, anything could happen. Norfolk and Tampa could re-sign. Tampa could leave for Syracuse. Norfolk could pick up Anaheim or Florida. With the lack of information, a sensible person could be found beating their head against the proverbial wall trying to figure out just what is going to happen next.
Fans, it’s time to forget about the affiliation issue for awhile. It’s time to focus on what’s really important, which is the team that is currently playing its heart out and has racked up 12 wins in a row. A team that is keeping Coach Cooper’s promise of making the fans proud after every game. I’ve heard some mention from fans implying a sense of entitlement regarding the affiliation talks, and my only response to that is–seriously? Aside from providing the on-ice product that fans have paid for, Norfolk has no obligation to talk about any part of the affiliation search. I’ve heard from fans who believe both Tampa and Norfolk already know what’s in store for next season but they are purposely withholding that information, as if to signal some sort of cover-up or conspiracy. I’ve even heard from fans saying they may not renew their season tickets if the Admirals sign with a “bad” team, which to me sounds a little extreme considering that these same ticket holders suffered through 3 consecutive years of sub-par hockey at Scope.
AHL hockey is alive and well in Norfolk. The Admirals are looking like they will be making a long trip in to the post season. Even though it’s the last year in the deal with Tampa, fans in Norfolk are finally being treated to what is possibly the best team to wear the AHL Admirals jersey, and that’s all thanks to the Lightning management. Stay or go, the product on the ice right now is all anyone should be focused on. There are just too many unknowns to consider worrying about something that quite frankly is out of the hands of all but 3 or 4 people. Regardless of the decision, the current team is here until the very end of this season, and will most likely continue to produce performances the likes of which thrilled a crowd of over 7000 people this past Saturday night. At the end of the day, there will be AHL hockey in Norfolk next season, and that all by itself is something to cheer about. Norfolk Admirals hockey survived the departure of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Norfolk Admirals hockey will survive this latest round of affiliation negotiations.