No longer tied to the Bolts, Kalamazoo Wings announce new affiliation

The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently without an ECHL affiliate as the K-Wings reunite with Vancouver.

It looks like Nic Riopel probably won’t be back in a Kalamazoo uniform next year. Neither will Bryan Hart or Cam Darcy.  On Wednesday, the Kalamazoo Wings announced that they entered into an affiliation with the Vancouver Canucks and Utica Comets. The move officially ended their one-season relationship with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Syracuse Crunch.

For now, it looks like the Lightning will enter the season without an ECHL affiliation. That isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. The three names mentioned above were the most noteworthy names that split time between Kalamazoo and Syracuse (no players went from Kalamazoo to Tampa last season).  A couple of other Syracuse players (Stefan Fournier and Adam Comrie) had a handful of games for K-Wings as well.

The changing of affiliates isn’t an uncommon practice in the ECHL as teams look for partnerships that best fit their business needs. Adirondack, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Norfolk, Quad City, Rapid City and Wichita also changed their parent clubs from last season to this one.

There are advantages for ECHL clubs to have affiliation agreements in place with NHL teams.  Exposure is one. Having a connection with a NHL team draws more attention. Sites like Raw Charge are writing about their players and exposing them to fan bases that might not be aware of them.

Increasing talent at affordable prices is another advantage. The ECHL salary cap is interesting to say the least. The K-Wings benefited from Cam Darcy being assigned to them and not having to be responsible for the entire portion of his salary.

When contacted by Raw Charge, Tampa Bay Lightning Public Relations Director Brian Breseman replied, “At this time we are unaffiliated.”

It is possible that the Lightning will remain without an ECHL affiliate for the next season. If there are prospects that don’t look like they will be getting a lot of playing time with Syracuse, they could be loaned out to various ECHL clubs.

That doesn’t seem to be in line with Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois’ style.  The organization is big on consistency and having players develop in similar systems. Having them dispersed among several different teams doesn’t seem to play into that philosophy.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the team announces a partnership before the summer is over.  Adirondack would be an interesting club to keep an eye on. They currently don’t have an official affiliation and are located reasonably close to Syracuse (less than a three-hour car ride). Also, their schedule is mostly on the east coast, which could make recalls easier than Kalamazoo which has a west heavy road schedule this season.

With the number of young prospects beginning their pro careers in the Lightning organization this season it would be nice to have one team to assign them to when the season begins.

Raw Charge will continue to update the developments as they happen.

On a personal note - I would like to thank the Kalamazoo Wings organization for their cooperation over the last year. Thank you to Joe Roberts, Public Relations master and radio voice of the K-Wings, for allowing us into the press box and answering random questions about the team and the league.  Thank you also to Coach Nick Bootland for taking time to answer our questions as well.