The ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads could factor into plans for Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise, as the club has been floated as its possible AHL affiliate.
As it approaches its 2021-22 launch, the Seattle NHL franchise is working to line up some key aspects of its organization. One of those is its AHL affiliate, as the league is expected to add a 32nd team in 2021-22 that will serve as Seattle’s farm club. No final decisions have been made to this stage, but signs have pointed to Seattle joining several other Western NHL franchises in establishing an AHL affiliate in the league’s Pacific Division.
During a Tuesday radio interview on Seattle’s KJR, franchise advisor Dave Tippett mentioned Boise–home of the Steelheads–and Palm Springs, CA as locations that Seattle NHL is exploring for its AHL affiliate. The Steelheads have since confirmed conversations with Seattle, but no formal discussions about shifting from the ECHL and AHL have taken place. More from the Idaho Press:
It was unclear if Boise and Palm Springs were the only candidates, or even the leading candidates, but Tippett said they had it narrowed down to “a couple that I think would be good options” before mentioning the two cities after being pressed.
“We’ve got to be somewhere in the west here for travel, schedule wise, everything,” Tippett told the show. “I’ve been approached by some different cities around. We’re working away hard at it, nothing official yet.”
Idaho Steelheads president Eric Trapp confirmed to the Idaho Press on Wednesday that the team had been contacted by the Seattle franchise and that Boise has been looked at, but said no negotiations have taken place regarding moving the team to the AHL from the ECHL.
“We’re always interested in making sure we’re positioning Boise and the downtown and our arena to be having hockey for a very long time,” Trapp said. “Whatever position or league provides us the opportunity to have the longest term and the best possible situation is what we’re going to try and do. And we’ve always been trying to do that from Day 1. Right now we have an ECHL franchise, we know we’re going to have hockey, we own the franchise, we have it. So if anybody comes at us, we’re always willing to look at any situation.”
There would be a process involved if the Steelheads made the move from the ECHL up to the AHL. For instance, when the Colorado Eagles moved up to the AHL for the 2018-19 season, they had their application to withdraw from the ECHL accepted and were added to the AHL as its 31st team. The Eagles’ move to the AHL also required upgrades to facilities at Budweiser Events Center, and it remains to be seen if the same would be needed at the Steelheads’ CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads are currently the ECHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars.
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