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Tampa Bay Lightning, Syracuse Crunch to partner again with the Lyon Hockey Club Lions

For the second season in a row, the Lightning's farm club will be visiting France for their pre-season.

It was announced this morning that the Tampa Bay Lightning is continuing their affiliation with the Lyon Hockey Club Lions and will be sending the Syracuse Crunch over to France again for their pre-season. This affiliation is in its second year.


Syracuse Crunch to Hold Training Camp in Lyon, France

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they will continue their partnership with the Lyon Hockey Club Lions for the 2015-16 season. The highlight of the season-long affiliation includes the Lightning’s top minor league affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, holding training camp and playing preseason games versus the Utica Comets in Lyon, France.  It also includes other business and marketing elements.

Hockey possesses a long and rich history in the French city of Lyon. The Sporting Club of Lyon won the first hockey championship in the country’s history in 1907. Many other teams have called Lyon home since and before the LHC Les Lions. The Lyons were founded by team president Sébastien Berthet and made their debut on May 1, 2009 after being approved by the French Federation of Ice Hockey. 

The LHC Les Lions have called at the Charlemagne Skating Rink home since 1967. The arena, with a capacity of 3,175 seats, is one of the largest in France. The team draws some of the largest crowds in the country each weekend, hosting an average of 3,000 fans per game. The team has seen a quick ascension through the ranks in just the four years since being relegated from the Magnus League. In 2013-14, Lyon beat the Bordeaux Boxers to return to the top division in France, after having been beaten in the finals by the Brest Albatross in the previous season.  In 2014-15, the Lions stayed clear of relegation with a record of 8-15-3 and will once again compete in the Magnus League in 2015-16. Excluding their championship in 1907, the Lions’ best Magnus League finish has been third, which the team accomplished in 1998 and 1999.

Traveling to France--or any other country--is a unique opportunity for Lightning prospects and organizational hopefuls. Players looking at signing on with a club often see unique opportunities like this as an incentive. Sending the team overseas for pre-season also allows the club different bonding opportunities that might not be had during a regular AHL pre-season series. Last fall, the members of the Crunch who went on the trip were treated to a trip to Paris. This year, the organization will plan a similar outing somewhere in the country.

A trip like this also buys the Onondaga County War Memorial a little bit more time, something that might be needed this fall. The arena will be undergoing a major project this summer to expand its ice surface to NHL regulation size. The Crunch's official Opening Night at home is October 17th, but the AHL's regular season starts the weekend before. The Crunch will either be away that official opening weekend for the league or not play at all. A completely overseas pre-season allows the organization a little bit of a cushion if any aspect of the construction takes longer than expected.

Last season, the Crunch took interstate rival Binghamton along for the ride to France. This year, Syracuse is taking another interstate rival in the Utica Comets. Utica and Syracuse have developed a passionate rivalry since Utica's arrival in the AHL two seasons ago. This pre-season series will help tip off what will surely be a collection of lively regular season bouts. Syracuse and Utica, along with Binghamton, Albany, Rochester, Toronto, and St. John's, will make up the AHL's new North Division. It's anticipated that the new geographic closeness of that division (with the exception of St. John's) will lead to an increased competitive spirit among the teams and their fans. Given that, having Syracuse bring Utica along for this trip probably only seemed natural.