(Edmonton Oilers Release)
03/19/07-The Edmonton Oilers are pleased to announce they have signed a new three-year affiliation agreement with the American Hockey League's Springfield Falcons, enabling the Oilers to ice their own AHL affiliate for the first time since 2004-05.
The new partnership will see the Oilers top prospects playing in Springfield, Massachusetts for the next three seasons, beginning in October 2007.
Edmonton Oilers General Manager, Kevin Lowe says, "We are pleased to once again have our own primary affiliate in the American Hockey League. The AHL has proven itself as the top developmental league in the world, and it is important to the success of the Oilers to have our own affiliate in a competitive league where our young players can develop their skills for the NHL."
"There are a number of reasons we are pleased to have concluded this new American Hockey League affiliation. Springfield has a long and storied hockey history and I always think keen fans in hockey environments are positives when players are in the development system. Springfield has a number of travel advantages which mean our young players will receive more practice and coaching time between games which is important, and of course, having a primary affiliate team in the AHL is a situation we have been anxious to have for some time now and the Springfield agreement is ideal."
"Today's announcement will be welcomed by Oilers fans, stated Oilers' President, Patrick LaForge. "Our organization has worked diligently to find the right solution for the Oilers in the American Hockey League. Oilers fans know we have a terrific core of young players, with more on the way shortly. Having those players hone their skills together on the same team, so we can see the polished results, is an advantage we have sought and now fulfilled".
Under the terms of the agreement, the Oilers will be responsible for the management of all hockey operations of the Falcons, including the hiring of the team's coaching staff.
"We are very excited about our new affiliation agreement with the Edmonton Oilers and look forward to providing their prospects with the best environment possible to develop their skills as they prepare for a career in the National Hockey League," stated Falcons' President and General Manager, Bruce Landon. "Edmonton is one of the premier franchises in the NHL and we are thrilled that they have selected Springfield to be their American Hockey League affiliate."
The city of Springfield, MA has a dynamic hockey history that dates back 80 years, beginning with the Springfield Indians. One of the first professional hockey teams in the United States, the Indians were an inaugural member of the Canadian-American Hockey League.
The Indians helped form the American Hockey League, where Springfield won seven Calder Cups, including a record three in a row from 1960-1962. The Indians once again won back-to-back championships in 1990 and 1991. Several Hockey Hall of Fame players have skated for Springfield-based teams over the years, including Gordie Howe, Brian Kilrea, Chuck Rayner, Earl Seibert, Eddie Shore, Billy Smith, and Lorne "Gump" Worsley. Shore's #2 was the first jersey number retired in Springfield hockey history. Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish played in 53 games with the Springfield Indians during the 1980-81 season, scoring 19 goals and 24 assists for 43 points.
The Springfield Falcons played their inaugural season in 1994-95, after the Indians franchise was relocated to Worcester, MA. After missing the playoffs their first season, the Falcons came back in 1995-96 and recorded Springfield's first 100-point campaign, posting a record of 42-22-11-5. Following the Falcons recording setting season, Springfield would make the post-season the next four seasons coming within one win of the Calder Cup Finals in 1996-97, followed by their second division championship and first conference title during the 1997-98 campaign. The Falcons have been the starting ground for NHL players such as Daniel Briere, Robert Esche, Sami Kapanen, Nikolai Khabibulin, and Manny Legace.
The 2007-08 season will be the 26th season in which the Oilers have been associated with the AHL. Edmonton's first AHL affiliate was the Moncton Alpines in 1982-83 and the Oilers have also had primary affiliations in Halifax (Nova Scotia Oilers; 1984-85 to 1987-88) and Sydney, Nova Scotia (Cape Breton Oilers; 1988-89 to 1995-96), as well as Hamilton (Hamilton Bulldogs; 1996-97 to 2002-03) and Toronto, Ontario (Toronto Roadrunners; 2003-04). Prior to their new affiliation in Springfield, the Oilers last primary AHL affiliate was the Edmonton Road Runners in 2004-05.