Eagles making the jump to the AHL, becoming Avs’ top affiliate in 2018-19

CREDIT: http://coloradoeagles.com/echl-news/belzile-recalled-to-ahls-san-antonio-rampage/

The Colorado Avalanche, in conjunction with the American Hockey League and the Colorado Eagles, announced Tuesday that the Eagles will serve as the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate beginning with the 2018-19 season.

The AHL Board of Governors formally approved league expansion at their 2017 Annual Meeting in July, with the Eagles officially becoming the 31st AHL franchise today. The San Antonio Rampage will remain Colorado’s AHL affiliate for the upcoming 2017-18 campaign, while the Eagles will spend one more year as the Avalanche’s ECHL affiliate.

“We are thrilled to begin this partnership with the Eagles franchise,” Avalanche Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Sakic said in a release. “The Eagles are a first-class organization with a history of winning and we would like to thank (Eagles CEO) Martin Lind and his entire staff for all their hard work on this. We are excited that Avalanche fans can now see our top prospects competing and developing in an outstanding environment just up the road.”

The Eagles, who play their home games at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, won the 2017 Kelly Cup as ECHL champions in their first season as the Avalanche’s ECHL affiliate. The Eagles’ run to the title included a 17-game winning streak during the regular season – which equaled the second-longest streak in league history – and an eight-game playoff winning streak to close out the postseason. Colorado was the first team to sweep the Kelly Cup Finals since 2002.

Founded by former NHL player Ralph Backstrom, the Eagles began play in 2003 and won the Central Hockey League championship in just their second season in 2004-05. Colorado would capture another CHL title in 2006-07 and hosted the CHL All-Star Game in 2009. The Eagles moved to the ECHL for the start of the 2011-12 season and have qualified for the playoffs in each of their six seasons in the league. The Avalanche and Eagles announced their ECHL affiliation agreement on July 20, 2016.

The Eagles previously served as the second-tier affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets in 2012-13 and Calgary Flames in 2014-15.

“I have always felt Northern Colorado is exceptional and the opportunity to acquire this AHL franchise puts the very pinnacle of exceptionalism solidly in the Budweiser Events Center,” Lind said. “The incredible relationship with Joe Sakic, Craig Billington and the great Avalanche organization created this opportunity, but it was our fan base that gave us the confidence to seize it. The Colorado Eagles will now be firmly concreted into the greatest minor league in all of sports and we expect to become model operators and continue our tradition of winning excellence in this league.”

San Antonio has served as Colorado’s AHL affiliate since 2015-16.  Prior to that, the Avalanche had an eight-year run with the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland from 2007-08 to 2014-15. The Cornwall Aces (Cornwall, Ontario) served as the club’s primary affiliate during the Avalanche’s inaugural season of 1995-96, followed by 10 years with the Hershey Bears in Hershey, Pennsylvania (1996-2005). The Avs then split an AHL affiliate with the Carolina Hurricanes for two years, spending the 2006-07 campaign in Albany, New York (Albany River Rats) and 2005-06 in Lowell, Massachusetts (Lowell Lock Monsters).

“We would like to thank the San Antonio Rampage and San Antonio Spurs for all their help and support over the last few years,” Sakic continued. “We look forward to working together this upcoming season.”