Raw Charge has been hearing rumors about the Tampa Bay Lightning’s new ECHL affiliate for months, but when the Adirondack Thunder announced a re-up of their affiliation with the New Jersey Devils — and the Tampa Bay Lightning made no noise at all about an unofficial affiliation — we had our suspicions. Especially coupled with the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to create their own ECHL farm team in Newfoundland and discontinue their affiliation with Orlando.
And then, Raw Charge learned in the preseason schedule that the Lightning would be holding an exhibition game at Amway center on September 27 against the Florida Panthers...well. We really started to wonder.
Today all of our speculation was put to rest. The Lightning have announced a three-year affiliation with the Solar Bears (covered up until now by Pension Plan Puppets), and will make the announcement on the ice at the preseason game at Amway. Will there be a season ticket holder benefit for this game for Orlando fans? One (okay, me) can only hope.
Steve Yzerman had this to say in the press release, and I will critique his words in a moment:
“We are extremely happy to welcome the Orlando Solar Bears into the Lightning organization today,” Yzerman said. “The Solar Bears organization has demonstrated a strong commitment to success that has paid off with numerous playoff appearances. We look forward to being a part of their future accomplishments while also developing our prospects in a world class environment.”
Critique: the Solar Bears are in the same division (South) as the extremely successful Florida Everblades (currently affiliated with the Charlotte Checkers and Carolina Hurricanes) and the Solar Bears have been ousted from the playoffs by the Everblades in every year they’ve made the playoffs since 2014. (Okay, the Cyclones bounced them in 2014. But ever since, it’s the Everblades.) This means that the Solar Bears have had a lot of first or second round exits from the playoffs since they “emerged from hibernation,” including one incredibly painful game 6 overtime loss that Garret Sparks still probably remembers.
Anyway. If you join us Orlando hockey fans in our Solar Bears fandom, you too will learn to curse the name of the Florida Everblades. And yes, Tampa Bay was the Everblades’ affiliate back in 2010-2013.
As of this moment in their existence, the Solar Bears are owned by the Orlando Magic corporation, and share the arena with this team. Here are a few more people weighing in about the affiliation:
“We are incredibly excited for this new partnership affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning,” said Alex Martins, CEO of the Orlando Magic, owners of the Solar Bears. “The Lightning is a first-class organization with tremendous values and vision and we feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to be a part of their hockey family. “
Added Dan DeVos, chairman of the Orlando Magic, “This is a great day for the Orlando Solar Bears. We couldn’t be more excited to form this partnership with a model franchise like the Tampa Bay Lightning.”
”We are thrilled to be able to announce our new affiliation with the Lightning,” Solar Bears president Chris Heller said. “This relationship will not only aid in our on-ice performance, but will also help strengthen the profile of ice hockey throughout Central Florida.”
How does the staff of Raw Charge feel about this? There are pros and cons.
- The Lightning can easily send their goaltending coach over to keep an eye on Martin Ouellette.
- If there are any prospects that get booted from Syracuse (hello, Matthew Spencer), the Lightning coaches can keep their eyes on those guys pretty easily here too.
- Lightning fans can easily go see a Lightning-affiliated team during the season, and the tickets will be CHEAP.
- Raw Charge inherits the incredibly knowledgeable ECHL beat reporter Don Money.
- It’s a three-year deal with some continuity, which is pretty rare with Tampa Bay ECHL affiliates in recent years.
- At least Shane Conacher is still with Adirondack?
- Considering that any players sent to Orlando have to hike up to Syracuse for a call-up, the distance is concerning.
- We lose Trace, our excellent Adirondack Thunder writer.
- Syracuse fans will find it harder to see their favorite demoted players.
- The Solar Bears are going to break your hearts in playoffs when they inevitably face the Florida Everblades.
Tickets for the Lightning’s preseason game at Amway Center on Thursday, September 27 against their cross-state rival Florida Panthers will go on sale to the general public on Thursday, August 23 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster.com. Exclusive pre-sales to Lightning, Magic and Solar Bears Season Ticket Members, as well as Magic Premium members will be offered throughout the week.