Technically, the Tampa Bay Lightning do not have an ECHL affiliate. After partnering with the Kalamazoo Wings for a season, the two clubs decided to part ways. Kalamazoo reunited with Vancouver and the Lightning joining the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Ottawa Senators as NHL franchises without an official ECHL affiliate.
It’s an interesting choice for the Lightning because they have an influx of prospects making the transition to the pro game from junior hockey. Not all of them are going to be able to find a spot on the Crunch and it would behoove the Lightning to have another organization available for those players to get ice time.
Enter the Adirondack Thunder. Earlier this summer the Thunder announced that they would be proudly affiliated with the New Jersey Devils. However, buried in the news reports was the note that they would unofficially be partnered with the Lightning. If Tampa only needs to shuffle two or three out of Syracuse this arrangement makes sense.
The Thunder are also located reasonably close to the Crunch so that moving players back and forth wouldn’t be as difficult as it was with Kalamazoo. The K-Wings were also slated to play more games in the Central and West, so having their players stay on the East Coast makes it easier to manage as well.
Things should clear up at the end of the month when the Crunch wrap up their training camp (which just got underway). Once they decide on a roster to start the season, some of the prospects that are under contract with either the Crunch or the Lightning could find their way to an ECHL team (*cough* Nic Riopel, *cough*). The Thunder have already signed one name familiar to Crunch fans — they inked former defenseman Mathieu Brodeur a few days ago.
Until we know more here, we are considering the Thunder the official ECHL team of Raw Charge. With that in mind we will start posting a few more stories regarding the franchise. For a good introduction to the franchise, refer to this post from trace1114 back in August.
Despite a good number of signings over the summer, the roster isn’t finalized yet. What has been finalized is their schedule. If you’re looking to see them in action, here are a few dates that might be of interest:
October 14th, 2017 - Opening night at Cool Insuring Arena. The Brampton Beast are in town as the Thunder open their third ECHL season. The Thunder finished last season 2-4 against the Beast. If you go to the game, you get a schedule magnet.
November 10th and 11th, 2017 - Adirondack travels to Kalamazoo to take on the K-Wings. Will Nic Riopel face off against former teammate Cameron Darcy? Only time will tell.
November 25th, 2017 - Marvel Superhero Night against the Reading Royals. The uniforms haven’t been released yet, but you can bet they will be wonderful. No one does specialty uniforms better than an ECHL franchise.
Also, if you live in the Glen Falls, New York area, this is the only time in November you will get to see the Thunder play at home. That’s right, out of the 12 games they play that month only one is at home. According to the Thunder, November is always a road heavy month for the team, but due to events being held at the Cool Insuring Arena the schedule is extremely out of whack this season.
December 2nd, 2017 - A week later the Beast return for the only tradition greater than themed-jerseys - the Teddy Bear Toss. What is a Teddy Bear Toss? Videos speak louder than words. Here is footage from 2014, when the Thunder were in Stockton:
After the home team scores their first goal, the crowd unleashes a cascade of fur-covered bears that blots out the sun. All of the animals are then collected and donated to a local charity. For the Thunder it is the Salvation Army. Coincidently, the Beast were also the opponent for the 2016 Teddy Bear Toss. They also ruined the Teddy Bear Toss by shutting out the Thunder.
January 24th-27th, 2018 - The Florida Everblades are in town for three games in four nights. At one point in their existence, the Everblades were affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
February 9th-11th, 2018 - Adirondack travels to Norfolk for a three game set. This marks the closest the Thunder will be to the Tampa Bay area. Guess who the Norfolk Admirals used to be affiliated with - that’s right, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
February 24th, 2018 - The Thunder induct their newest class into their Hall of Fame. While the Thunder in its current incarnation is only three seasons old, hockey in the area has a long tradition. Currently there are 17 members that comprise the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame including names such as Bill Dineen, Barry Melrose, Dave Strader and Ted Nolan.
April 6th, 2018 - The regular home schedule closes out against the Manchester Monarchs, the team that eliminated the Thunder in the first round of the 2016-17 Kelly Cup playoffs.
Stay tuned to Raw Charge throughout the season for updates and recaps on the Thunder. You can also follow them on Twitter @ECHLThunder and at their website www.echlthunder.com.