We’ve been in “offseason” mode for a while here at IndyPuck, but with the “new” ECHL season starting up, there’s a lot going on.
- The 2015-16 season concluded last week with the announcement of the Fuel’s end-of-season roster (and those of the 26 other teams who will ice teams in the upcoming season. With Evansville going dormant, all IceMen players are free agents).
- Goaltender Mac Carruth signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. He has played two seasons with the Fuel.
- With Corey Crawford, Scott Darling, Carruth and recent signing Lars Johannson all under NHL contracts, keep an eye on Rockford’s recent signing of Jake Hildebrand. He was a four-time team MVP at Michigan State, Big Ten Goaltender of the Year in 2015, and made eight appearances in the playoffs with the Allen Americans, winning three games and being a part of a Kelly Cup championship. Rockford has also signed Jonathan Carlsson, Jake Dowell, Chris DeSousa and Evan Mosey to contracts for 2016-17. Dowell is an AHL veteran, Mosey played the last three seasons in Europe, and Carlsson is a veteran D who played 46 games for Evansville and 25 for Rockford last year.
- The Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs extended their AHL affiliation through 2022. The Fuel are the ECHL affiliate of both teams.
- The league’s annual Board of Governors meeting is this week in Las Vegas. A number of proposals will be considered. While the league will announce changes later, Fort Wayne is making a couple of proposals to expand the reserve list from two players to three and to allow teams to sign a third goaltender to a two-way contract, presumably sharing that player with an SPHL team.
- Affiliation news
- The Vancouver Canucks affiliation has moved to Alaska. In 2014-15, the Canucks shared an affiliation with the Kalamazoo Wings. In 2015-16, the Canucks were officially unaffiliated, but were placing several players in Kalamazoo. Vancouver now has the westernmost ECHL affiliation, but is the lone NHL Pacific Division team with its AHL affiliate in the Eastern time zone (Utica, N.Y.). One of the Aces’ co-owners told the Alaska Dispatch News’ Doyle Woody he expects an AHL move west in the future, and this affiliation could be a piece in that cog. The Aces were an independent in 2015-16. They shared an affiliation with St. Louis & Minnesota the year prior, and won the Kelly Cup as a Calgary Flames affiliate in 2013-14.
- The Idaho Steelheads have re-upped with the Dallas Stars through 2018, extending an agreement that has been in place since 2005 (and all but one year since 2003).
- The Greenville Swamp Rabbits also extended their affiliation with the New York Rangers through 2017-18.
- A bit of a shell game took place in the AHL in recent weeks, with the Arizona Coyotes moving the Springfield Falcons to Tucson to become the Roadrunners (and create a sixth western team in the AHL), and the Portland Pirates moving to Springfield to replace the Falcons. What does this mean for the ECHL? Groups in Portland are exploring an ECHL franchise to begin play in 2017, and the main ownership group is exploring purchasing an existing team. Portland would expand the league’s footprint in New England. Currently, the Manchester Monarchs have finished their first ECHL season, while the expansion Worcester RailRiders will begin play in 2017.
- The Toledo Walleye are looking for a new coach, as Derek Lalonde is now the head coach of the AHL’s Iowa Wild. Lalonde is no stranger to the visitor’s bench in Indy, having also coached the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL in their rivalries with the Indiana Ice.
- The South Carolina Stingrays are also looking for a coach, as Spencer Carbery has moved to the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit. He coached the Stingrays for five seasons.
- When the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup last week, one person with Indianapolis ties was a part of the title. Scott Bell, who played two games with the Indianapolis Ice in 1995-96, is a Penguins scout.
- The Cincinnati Gardens appears to be closing up shop. The Gardens opened in 1949 as the home of the AHL’s Cincinnati Mohawks, and was built as a miniature version of Maple Leaf Gardens. The AHL’s Indianapolis Capitals played there as a visiting team from 1949-52, the IHL’s Chiefs played there as a visiting team from 1955-58, then played several home games there in 1958-59. The Chiefs played the host Mohawks in the 1957 Turner Cup Final, losing in three games. It was the last of five straight Turner Cup titles for Cincinnati. The IHL’s Indianapolis Ice also played there as a visiting team against the Cincinnati Cyclones from 1992-97. It also was the home of the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals, but was supplanted as the region’s major arena when Riverfront Coliseum (now U.S. Bank Arena) opened in 1975. The Gardens’ last pro hockey tenant was the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, who folded in 2005.
- The worst-kept secret in hockey is soon to become official, when Las Vegas becomes the NHL’s 31st city, beginning play in 2017. Owner Bill Foley is maintaining a low profile.
- Old friend Tony Brown is the play-by-play voice of the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, who swept their way to the Calder Cup championship last week. His call of the championship-winning OT goal is here.
- The Binghamton Press featured former Checkers player Kurt Kleinendorst as he has success in Europe.
- The NHL draft is this week, and one player with Ice ties is getting a lot of interest – Logan Brown. Logan was drafted by the Ice in 2013, participated in the team’s tryout camp that summer (and was one of the best players on the ice at age 15) and played for the Junior Ice program in 2013-14 while his father coached the USHL team to a Clark Cup title. Brown is expected to be a high first-round pick this weekend.