SPRINGFIELD, MA … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced today that the league’s Board of Governors, meeting in Springfield, Mass., has conditionally approved the sale of the inactive AHL franchise owned by the Detroit Red Wings to San Antonio Hockey LLC, a joint venture of the San Antonio Spurs and the Florida Panthers. The Board also conditionally approved the transfer of the Ottawa Senators’ inactive AHL franchise to Binghamton, N.Y., where the franchise will be owned by a local group of investors and will serve as the Senators’ primary affiliate.
The San Antonio team will be the primary affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, and will play at the brand new SBC Center in San Antonio beginning in October, 2002. The arena will seat 13,000 for hockey.
“We are proud to welcome the city and fans of San Antonio to the American Hockey League,” said Andrews. “There is a great tradition of sports excellence in south Texas, and we are looking forward to bringing the excitement of AHL hockey to this wonderful new facility.”
“Our commitment to the San Antonio community and all of South Texas is to attract the highest quality teams and events to the SBC Center,” said Peter Holt, chairman of the San Antonio Spurs. “By bringing the Panthers’ AHL affiliate to San Antonio, our fans will see many future NHL stars right here.”
In 2001-02, Florida was among the NHL leaders in player development, with 31 AHL graduates having suited up for the Panthers. Florida head coach Mike Keenan is also an AHL graduate, leading the Rochester Americans to a Calder Cup championship in 1983.
“The Florida Panthers are excited to join forces with the San Antonio Spurs and the AHL to bring to San Antonio a great new level of hockey and provide an ideal situation to develop our young players,” stated Alan Cohen, Florida Panthers Chairman of the Board and CEO.
The city of Binghamton enjoyed 20 successful seasons as a member of the American Hockey League from 1977-97, developing strong rivalries with nearby clubs such as Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. In 1997, the New York Rangers purchased the Binghamton franchise and relocated it to Hartford. Notable Binghamton AHL alumni include Colin Campbell, Ken Holland, Craig MacTavish, Kevin Dineen, Ray Ferraro, Ulf Samuelsson, Peter Laviolette, Alexei Kovalev, Mattias Norstrom, Mike Richter and Dan Cloutier.
“We are thrilled about the positive direction in which the franchise is moving with today’s vote,” stated Tom Mitchell on behalf of the Binghamton ownership group. “Today is an exciting day for the hockey fans in Binghamton.”
“We are very excited about the AHL’s decision today, although there are still several steps that must be completed with the Ottawa Senators organization before this can become a reality,” said State Sen. Thomas W. Libous of New York. “This is great news not only for hockey fans, but for all people of the Southern Tier.”
Now completing its 66th season, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 75% of all players to compete in the NHL this year have been AHL graduates, including 350 American Hockey Leaguers who were recalled during the 2001-02 season.
Notable AHL alumni through the years include Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk, Fred Glover, Larry Robinson, Ron Hextall, Patrick Roy, Brett Hull and Martin Brodeur.