The Jacksonville Icemen will become the New York Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack’s next ECHL affiliate. The Icemen secured a multiyear affiliation agreement with the Rangers organization beginning in the 2021-22 season until 2022-23 per Andrew Zadarnowski.
“The New York Rangers are excited to begin our partnership with the Jacksonville Icemen,” Drury said in the Jacksonville press release.. “We are eager to begin this next chapter of professional hockey in our organization, and we look forward to developing future Rangers players in Jacksonville.
Rangers needed to find a new ECHL affiliate
The Rangers former ECHL affilate, the Maine Mariners, elected to become the ECHL affilate of the Boston Bruins. Earlier in the off-season, there were rumblings that Boston wanted their ECHL affiliate closer to Providence. The first report surfaced in May by Mark Divver. The Bruins previous ECHL affiliate was the Atlanta Gladiators for a number of seasons.
When the Maine Mariners joined the ECHL in the 2018-19 season, the Rangers elected to move on from the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The Rangers spent two seasons with Maine. However in the 2020-21 season, Maine opted out to participate in the shortened season and the Rangers had to utilize various ECHL clubs to place players.
The move from Greenville, South Carolina to Portland, Maine was to help reduce travel between the AHL and ECHL transactions. Call ups from Greenville was difficult considering players had to fly to Charlotte, then into Hartford. Transactions on day of the game had to be early on for the player to make it on time to the facility.
Having your ECHL affiliate located close helps logistically with the transactions on the minor league level.
Rangers announce new ECHL affiliation
The Rangers organization had limited options once Maine had interest in becoming the Bruins affiliate. The organization had to look at current teams without affiliates. Currently in the northeast, all the ECHL teams had NHL affiliations.
Logistically, the affiliation between Jacksonville and Hartford will be harder to mange. Direct flights are not common between the cities and majority of flights will require a layover, similar to the situation with Greenville. Transactions must be done as early as possible if Hartford needs a player by the evening. The travel time is roughly 4 hours and 30 minutes when you add the time of going to the airport and arriving to the XL Center.
On the plus, Jacksonville is a superb hockey market in Florida. The Icemen joined the ECHL in the 2017-18 season and has brought a great buzz to the city for the sport. The atmosphere is great for Rangers prospects as the team averages near 6,000 a game, including sellouts for a few games throughout their franchise history.
“We are excited to partner with one of the NHL’s most iconic franchises as we continue to move forward to bringing the Kelly Cup to Jacksonville,” said Icemen CEO Andy Kaufmann. “We are confident the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack will be great partners.”
The prior affiliation for Jacksonville was the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose. Currently, that organization will have to find another ECHL affilate. Given the difficulties with the border, it was hard to operate last season between the Moose and Icemen.
The Rangers and the prospects in Jacksonville will have a great time in the Sunshine state. The Icemen have strong local support, a good facility, and an ownership structure that wants to grow the game and understand their role in development. This is a win for everyone.
Jacksonville will begin their season on Saturday, October 23rd against the Florida Everblades.