Norfolk Admirals

Affiliation Move Now Official

(Tampa Bay Lightning press release) The Tampa Bay Lightning have entered into a multi-year affiliation agreement with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League today, Lightning Assistant General Manager Julien BriseBois announced. Syracuse will serve as the Lightning’s top affiliate starting with the 2012-13 regular season. Tampa Bay will provide the Crunch with their top prospects under both NHL and AHL contracts.

“We are excited about our new partnership with the Syracuse Crunch and we look forward to working with Howard Dolgon and his organization on putting together a winning development program,” said BriseBois. “We benefited from tremendous fan support in Norfolk which helped us reach new heights as a team. We wish the Admirals fans and the city of Norfolk all the best in the future.”

The Syracuse Crunch is entering into its 19th year of operation in the AHL and boast the longest, current independent ownership group led by Howard Dolgon. The Crunch has the sixth longest tenure of any AHL team. The Lightning will be the fourth primary NHL affiliate of the Crunch, who previously partnered with Vancouver (1994-99), Columbus (2000-09) and Anaheim (2010-12). Syracuse had a dual affiliation with Vancouver and Pittsburgh from 1997-1999.

“We are delighted to be partnering with a first class organization run by an outstanding management team in Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois,” said Dolgon.

Tampa Bay previously held their primary AHL affiliation with the Norfolk Admirals over the past five seasons. As the Lightning’s top affiliate, the Admirals captured the Calder Cup last week and also set a professional hockey record, winning 28 consecutive games to close out the 2011-12 regular season.

Lightning Announce Helenius Signing

(Tampa Bay Lightning press release) The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Riku Helenius to a two-year contract, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today. The first year of Helenius’ contract will be a two-way deal, while the second will be a one-way.

Helenius, 24, played in 33 games for JYP of Finland’s SM-liiga, compiling a 1.64 goals against average and .936 save percentage. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound goaltender appeared in 13 playoff games this past season, posting a 1.73 goals against average and a .947 save percentage, helping lead JYP to the league championship. The Palkane, Finland native was also given the Urpo Ylonen Award as the top goaltender during the regular season.

The Finnish netminder was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the first round, 15th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Helenius made his NHL debut with the Lightning on January 30, 2009 against the Philadelphia Flyers in a relief effort and stopped both shots he faced.

Prospect of the Week (6.12.12)

This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions.

We wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospect’s achievement on the ice.

This week’s BP Prospect of the Week award, the last of the season, goes to … Jon Cooper, Coach, Norfolk Admirals (AHL).

While not a Lightning prospect in the true definition of a Lightning prospect, Admirals Head Coach Jon Cooper is certainly an NHL prospect. His name was mentioned when the Montreal Canadiens were searching for a new bench boss and with Edmonton and Washington needing coaches, it's being mentioned again – especially after Cooper’s Admirals won the Calder Cup on Saturday afternoon. The bottom line is he’ll be in the NHL soon.

Looking Back on 8 Seasons That Built Greatness

It's been a day since the Norfolk Admirals hoisted the Calder Cup for the first time. The amazing thing about championships is that they're a shared milestone in the lives of, really, thousands, between the players, coaches, staff, and fans. Those journeys often contain compelling stories that make the triumph worth that journey. For Jon Cooper, it was about closing down his law practice to coach his way from Michigan high school hockey, to the USHL to working with Hockey USA, to a 2 season sprint to glory in the AHL. For Cory Conacher, it was about not being drafted and playing hockey at off-the-beaten path Canisius, dealing with diabetes, and earning an NHL contract in March of an MVP season before posting 4 assists in the championship clinching Calder Cup Finals game.

The stories of the players and the coaches are the ones we'll read about in the coming months and years, and they should be. When the Lightning made their Stanley Cup run in 2003-2004 and were playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, John Tortorella refused to fire back at Ken Hithcock's remarks about "Italians from Boston," because Torts rightfully understood, "It's about the athletes." Ultimately, they're the ones who score the goals and make the saves. They sacrifice their bodies and take the stitches and they take the slings and arrows if they lose. Ultimately, it's their moment, and to a lesser extent the moments of their families who supported them in the journey up to those moments. The hockey moms and dads who woke up at 6:00 am to drive their kids to games. Scratching together money for skates and ridiculously expensive composite sticks. The wives and significant others who live with the players and coaches through the disappointments and the frustrations, and live in fear of moments when things can go wrong, like when slap shots can hit a man in the ear at 90 miles an hour, similar to what happened to Scott Jackson.

Less compelling, perhaps, is the story of an organization, but, these are stories can be worth telling, too... especially in this case. We started beta testing Bolt Prospects in 2004-2005, one year after the Lightning's Cup win, in the heart of the NHL lockout. That year was also the first year since the Detroit Vipers of the IHL folded after the 2000-2001 season that the Lightning had a full-time minor league affiliate: the Springfield Falcons. Absent a full-time affiliate, it became clear the Lightning would struggle to maintain their spot on top of the hockey mountain, because split affiliates would not give prime ice time and coaching help to another organization's players. That problem prompted the start of an 8 year process for the Lightning that ended in building what must be considered the sport's preeminent developmental apparatus with the Norfolk Admirals' Calder Cup championship and the Florida Everblades' Kelly Cup Championship.

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