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Vegas To Control All Hockey Operation At AHL Level; Likely Affiliated With Chicago Wolves

Remember about a month ago when we were discussing the Chicago Wolves organization and how they may not be the perfect fit for the Golden Knights? Well after a little further digging, it appears the information that led us to that conclusion is a bit out-dated, and the concerns we had aren’t going to be an issue at all.

Vegas will have full control over hockey operations of it’s minor league affiliate. They will be the primary NHL team to be affiliated with their minor league team, and the Chicago Wolves are still the likely destination which will be announced when the AHL season concludes in late April to mid May (depending on the Wolves success in the playoffs).

Let me back up a minute and show my work here, cause this is quite a bit different from what I said a little more than a month ago.

The first report of an affiliation with the Wolves was posted by Steve Carp of the RJ on January 1st. At that time it was reported as “in discussions” with Chicago.

Since then, sources have assured with me on multiple occasions that unless something changes, it’ll be Chicago. I even got a pretty strong hint of that yesterday as well.

So that’s when I went into dig mode on what an affiliation with the Wolves would look like. Historically, the Wolves are one of the most independently run AHL franchises even making comments like this.

They are in no way defined by their NHL parent. Affiliation, for (Wolves GM Wendell Young), is just another league rule. –Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business

That quote was from 2013, but Ecker doubled down on that in an article written in June 2016 about the Blues extending their affiliation with the Wolves.

Then yesterday, in a special Q&A with season ticket holders, George McPhee was asked about the minor league affiliation and exactly how that will process will work.

The deal that we are going to do is going to be an exclusive deal, we are the primary affiliate, and we are going to go into a market that has a good hockey history and the team has done well. We will supply our players, we may get some players from another club but the way that the deal would be structured is the affiliation is between us and the minor league club and we will decide what players come from the other clubs, if any. We have full authority in all hockey matters and we will have final say on what decisions that are made. The ideal situation is to have an affiliate you can work well with and they make contributions and you make contributions and you build a real good team together. I like having a minor league club that wins. I think winning is a part of development. I like having young players in a winning environment. -George McPhee, General Manager

And that wasn’t all.

The minor league club pays us a fee and we supply the players and coaching staff and the minor league club runs the business side of the operation and we put the players and coaches in there and it’s all about development and winning and they can both happen simultaneously. -McPhee

So let’s break this all down.

“Going to be an exclusive deal.” That’s not exactly what we thought originally as we expected it to be a shared affiliation with the Blues. This likely means the Blues are moving out. They did sign a one year extension with the Wolves that ends at the conclusion of this season.

“We are going to go into a market that has a good hockey history and the team has done well.” Chicago fits the bill beyond the shadow of a doubt here. Obviously the hockey history is there, and the Wolves have won two Calder Cups and have made the playoffs 10 out of the 15 years they’ve been in the AHL.

“We have full authority in all hockey matters.” This is where my ears perked up. From what I’ve read, and subsequently passed on to everyone who reads SinBin.vegas, that’s not the way Chicago operates. However, yesterday in a text conversation with a person with extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the AHL, I was specifically told the Blues do indeed have full control over hockey operations with the Wolves.

So I continued to dig, and came across this.

Working with (GM) Doug Armstrong and the Blues [in 2015-16], really liked the people and the organization. I want to be a head coach, and Doug offered me the job. It’s a great opportunity. -Craig Berube, Chicago Wolves Head Coach

I was also able to confirm that The Creator would not have been comfortable with an arrangement in which Vegas does not control every piece of the hockey operations.

We are in a good place with a club and with an affiliation, it’s something we will announce at the end of the hockey season. But we are really pleased with where we are and how we are doing this. -McPhee

So add it all up and what do we get. The Vegas Golden Knights and the Chicago Wolves will have an exclusive deal in which George McPhee and his staff have full control over the players and coaches in exchange for a fee.

That is of course assuming I’ve got the whole story now… which I’ve thought I’ve had on multiple occasions. Either way, that’s my story for today, and I’m sticking to it… until someone tells me something else, in which case then I’ll change it again. This has been fun, talk to ya tomorrow.

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11 Comments

  1. RJ

    I love the detective work you put in here, but I’m having a lot of difficulty imagining this.

    Is the plan to sign enough players to stock both the NHL club and the AHL club? If not, will the Wolves be allowed to sign players to exclusive contracts, unaffiliated with Las Vegas or any other NHL team?

    Also, is Chicago a destination we want to be connected to long term? I know there are a lot of direct flights, but it is 2 time zones away and not an ideal location for transferring players up and down. AHL expansion into Reno or Salt Lake City seems plausible, and so does taking the Bakersfield AHL team from Edmonton.

    Either way, we probably won’t get to see how the sausage is made when it comes to AHL and eventually ECHL affiliation. I guess I’ll just have to trust we get the best deal available for both financial considerations and player development. If I gotta take a quick trip to Chicago to see our prospects, I guess I will.

  2. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    ‘Then yesterday, in a special Q&A with season ticket holders, George McPhee was asked about the minor league affiliation and exactly how that will process will work.’

    Is there audio available? – Steve Carp described it as a 50-minute question-and-answer podcast

    Many Thanks

  3. Phisig150

    I never liked the idea of sharing a minor league team with a another NHL club or the Knights getting limited say of how our players were being developed. Sounds like they ironed out those issues. I’d still like for the AHL club to be located somewhere in the South West one day. Bakersfield seems to make some sense. Give me a reason to go visit my cousin in that shit hole he lives in.

    • All indications since November have been that the Blues will not be involved with the Chicago Wolves next season, even though their plan to have a new affiliate in Kansas City fell through.

      There is every reason to believe that if the Knights had planned to share an affiliate, it would have been with the Avalanche since they’ve been struggling to form a complete AHL roster for the past two years in San Antonio.

      It’s just too bad Les Alexander has his head up his ass about the Houston Aeros.

    • Primakov

      Bakersfield is not an option since they’re the affiliated minor league club for the Edmonton Oilers already who have owned them outright since the AHL created the new Pacific Division.

      Bakersfield Condors – Edmonton Oilers
      Ontario Reign – Los Angeles Kings
      San Antonio Rampage – Colorado Avalanche
      San Diego Gulls – Anaheim Ducks
      San Jose Barracuda – San Jose Sharks
      Stockton Heat – Calgary Flames
      Texas (Austin) Stars – Dallas Stars
      Tuscon Roadrunners – Arizona Coyotes

      • PhiSig 150

        Reno it is then. Can we share the name Aces with the baseball team?

        • Primakov

          I think it would depend on how strongly that baseball team values and tries to defend the property rights for that name. Especially for things like advertisements, merchandising, etc.

          If they have put a lot of money into establishing their brand they might ask for compensation before they even think about giving it up.

  4. Willy702

    Makes total sense since the Wolves play “down the street” from OHare. Of course have to deal with flight delays and all, but think about it, kids in Reno or Bakersfield are subject to the timing of flights too. Maybe you lose an hour at most, but for road trips might be quicker to get someone in to another NHL city in a bind. Plus agree on the winning atmosphere comment, the Golden Knights arent in the business of creating a successful AHL franchise. Getting players is easy, it will serve as a great on the fly tryout for who the club will want to consider, many who will be NHL vets in search of another shot and free agents from college and Europe. The parent club must have control there because the tryouts will require placement of players in specific situations and types of lines that may not align with another club. So yes this all makes sense and is good news.

  5. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    ‘Craig Berube, Chicago Wolves Head Coach’

    How convenient!! According to Brian Blessing, ex-Philadelphia Flyer Berube is Murray Craven’s choice for Golden Knights head coach – Berube may eventually get the job if things go pear-shaped. Next in line

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