The Carolina Hurricanes announced on Thursday that they have signed a three-year affiliation agreement with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. The agreement ends the Canes’ affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers, the 2019 Calder Cup champions, that began in the 2010-11 season. The Checkers announced Thursday they would be affiliated with the Florida Panthers.
In April it became known that the Hurricanes were negotiating with the Chicago Wolves. The Charlotte Observer reported that after a breakdown in the relationship between the two franchises, the Hurricanes were close to a long-rumored deal to move their AHL affiliation to the Chicago Wolves, with the Checkers presumably becoming the Florida Panthers’ top affiliate.
While the Wolves would pay the Hurricanes a larger affiliation fee than the Checkers, there were other factors that went into the Hurricanes’ willingness to change affiliates. The Hurricanes and Checkers went into this season without an affiliation agreement until the middle of training camp, when they settled on a last-minute, one-year extension of their existing deals. Negotiations over an agreement beyond this season remained stalled when the Vegas Golden Knights bought the San Antonio AHL franchise in February, opening up the Wolves as a potential AHL affiliate for the Hurricanes.
FROM CAROLINA HURRICANES
RALEIGH, NC – Don Waddell, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has signed a three-year affiliation agreement with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
“We are proud to be affiliated with such a historically and financially successful American Hockey League franchise,”said Waddell. “I’m confident our prospects will receive first-class treatment in Chicago, while continuing to be guided by coaches, management and trainers who work closely with the parent club in Raleigh.”
Founded by current owners Don Levin and Buddy Meyers as an International Hockey League (IHL) expansion franchise in 1994, the Wolves have captured four league championships, winning the IHL’s Turner Cup in 1998 and 2000 and the AHL’s Calder Cup in 2002 and 2008. Chicago joined the AHL in 2001 as the top minor-league affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers, and have since captured eight division titles, four conference championships and two Calder Cups. The Wolves recently completed a three-year affiliation agreement with the Vegas Golden Knights, during which they advanced to the 2019 Calder Cup championship before falling in five games to the then-Hurricanes’ affiliate Charlotte Checkers. The Wolves play their home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, and more than 58 percent (376 of 647) of Wolves players have played in the NHL.
Ryan Warsofsky, who served as head coach for the Hurricanes’ top prospects in Charlotte in 2019-20, will continue to serve as head coach for the team in Chicago. In his first year as an AHL head coach, Warsofsky, 32, led the Checkers to a record of 34-22-5 before the season was suspended in March. Patrick Dwyer, who spent his rookie AHL season with the Wolves in 2005-06, will continue to serve as assistant coach under Warsofsky. In addition, Bob Nardella will maintain the role of assistant coach that he has held with the Wolves over the past three seasons. Nardella and Dwyer were teammates on the 2005-06 squad as Nardella wrapped up a 12-year professional career that featured three championships with the Wolves (1998, 2000, 2002) and two appearances with Italy’s Olympic team (1998, 2006).
“It’s a great organization,” Chicago Wolves General Manager Wendell Young said of the Hurricanes. “Our relationship with Don Waddell over the years has been terrific and he leads an all-encompassing organization. They care about their AHL affiliate and they’ve done a great job of drafting and building through trades. We’re excited about the prospects coming here and accompanying them with quality veterans. We’re looking forward to putting a great team on the ice.”
FROM CHARLOTTE CHECKERS
The Charlotte Checkers today announced that they have reached a multi-year affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Florida Panthers that will begin with the 2020-21 season.
“We are very fortunate to have found a great partner in the Florida Panthers,” said Checkers Chief Operating Officer Tera Black. “We feel confident that this relationship will allow us to continue producing a high-level product while providing a great environment for player development. We look forward to welcoming their players and staff to Charlotte as soon as possible.”
“We are proud to announce our affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers,” said Florida Panthers President and CEO Matthew Caldwell. “The Checkers organization has found success and constructed a winning culture. We are thrilled for the opportunities that this partnership provides for our young players and the future of our franchise.”
“It’s an exciting day for the Panthers and Checkers organizations,” said Panthers General Manager Bill Zito. “Building success and establishing a strong culture at the American Hockey League level is vital to the development of our young players. The Checkers have built a winning culture, culminating in a 2019 Calder Cup Championship. We feel that with this affiliation, our prospects will be in the right environment to grow and develop into National Hockey League players.”
Moving forward, the Checkers will continue to play at Bojangles’ Coliseum with no major changes to the team’s colors, uniforms or branding. The team will now be comprised of players, coaches and hockey staff from the Panthers’ organization, while the Checkers’ front-office staff will not change due to the affiliation.
The American Hockey League, which announced the cancelation of the remainder of its 2019-20 season in May, has a tentative target date of Dec. 4 to begin play on the 2020-21 campaign.