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Golden Knights Purchase AHL Franchise, Relocating Them To Las Vegas/Henderson

The Golden Knights have purchased the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL and pending the expected approval from the AHL’s Board of Governor’s, they will be relocated to Las Vegas/Henderson for the 2020-21 season.

Though it was not announced formally today, the team is expected to play at The Orleans Arena next season and stay for either two or three years. The plan is then for the team to move to a new arena, yet to begin construction, in Henderson.

The AHL team is expected to be named the Henderson Silver Knights and they will practice at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, the new public rink being built on Water Street.

By every relevant metric, the growth of the game here the last few years at all levels has been remarkable. We could not be more proud to bring a second professional hockey club to the Valley to accelerate this growth even further. -The Creator

The Golden Knights will end their affiliation with the Chicago Wolves at the conclusion of this season and will bring all players under Golden Knights contract with them to the new affiliate in Las Vegas/Henderson.

This move will effectively centralize our hockey operations and streamline our processes in terms of player development, scouting, transfers and staffing. -George McPhee

The Golden Knights are currently accepting refundable season ticket deposits of $50 for the AHL franchise. They can be purchased at this link with current season ticket holders receiving priority access in the seat selection process.

Carp: The AHL In Vegas? An Interesting Proposition

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Before the NHL accepted Bill Foley’s $500 million and let him join their exclusive club, I floated the idea to him about the possibility of putting his American Hockey League affiliate in Las Vegas.

After all, the perfect venue was right down the street from T-Mobile Arena in the Orleans Arena. It sat around 7,000 for hockey. It had free parking. The concessions were fairly priced. He probably could cut a decent deal with Boyd Gaming on the lease.

Best of all, he could get players to transfer back and forth from the parent club without having to get on a plane to do so.

Foley didn’t think it would work. He thought the franchise would be better served having its farm team in another location.

Of course, no one back in 2016 had any idea what was going to happen a year and a half later. The Golden Knights took the league and the city by storm and had unprecedented success on and off the ice. Suddenly, there were people on waiting lists to purchase season tickets. And even as the team jacked up the price of season tickets, most of the subscribers have stayed loyal.

So now there was a glut of hockey fans who go gaga over the Golden Knights but can’t get into T-Mobile Arena. It is indeed a fortress, accessible only by financial largesse to a privileged few.

What to do?

Bring another team to town. Play at the Orleans for a couple seasons until your rink in Henderson is built for the AHL team. Use the guys you already have under contract with the Chicago Wolves. Hell, the fans already know who all those guys are. It’ll be an easy transition. They could play in a division with Ontario, Bakersfield, Stockton, Tucson, San Diego, Palm Springs (when Seattle launches in a couple of years) and yes, San Jose.

Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?

Sure does, especially If you’re Kerry Buboltz, the team’s president who continues to come up with creative ways to separate you from your money so they can pay Mark Stone $9.5 million annually for the better part of this decade.

Would this AHL in Las Vegas/Henderson idea work? My thinking to Foley was it would be an affordable alternative for those who couldn’t go to an NHL game, like the Wranglers were while cultivating more fans for the Vegas NHL team.

Yes, I knew it would cost more to go to an AHL game instead of an ECHL contest. But if you could take your family to a game at the Orleans for under $100, that would help make it work.

Where it really works is from a hockey standpoint. A defenseman goes down, an AHL callup could drive 10 minutes from the Orleans to T-Mobile. The AHL guys can live in Summerlin and practice at City National Arena or the team’s under-construction rink in Henderson. George McPhee could still pull his creative strings to clear salary cap space and the team would save a ton on travel costs. They can scout the organization’s players more often. They can regularly interact with the AHL team’s coaching staff. It would certainly streamline things.

However, would it work at the turnstiles? Could you turn a profit by owning your own AHL team? Currently, the Knights have a partnership with the Wolves, who are independently owned. The Wolves are staying put, though they’ll get a whole new roster of players from their next NHL affiliate once Vegas pulls its players out of Chicago.

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Orleans Arena Expects To Become Home To Golden Knights AHL Affiliate Next Season

Photo Credit: Brian Idziak, SinBin.vegas

The Golden Knights AHL affiliate is currently the Chicago Wolves, but according to multiple sources that may change as soon as next year.

Per SinBin.vegas sources, Boyd Gaming and The Orleans Hotel and Casino are expecting the Golden Knights to purchase an AHL franchise and move them to Vegas to play at the Orleans Arena.

The current plan is expected to have the team play at Orleans Arena for two seasons before moving to a new rink built specifically for the AHL.

Earlier today, David Andrews, the President of the AHL, said the Golden Knights are in talks with other AHL team owners about purchasing a team.

The Orleans Arena was previously home to the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL from 2003-2014. Orleans announced in December 2013 that they would not be renewing the Wranglers lease which eventually forced the team to cease operations.

Per Wikipedia, Orleans Arena’s capacity for hockey is 7,773. The Wranglers’ highest season average attendance was 5,531.

Two teams have their AHL affiliate playing in the same building as the NHL team (Winnipeg and San Jose), while another four (COL, MTL, BOS, TOR) play within an hour drive. In Toronto, the Maple Leafs play in an arena 2.1 miles away from the Marlies. Orleans Arena is located 2.0 miles from T-Mobile Arena.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Golden Knights and Wolves had agreed to a 5-year partnership. However, a SinBin.vegas source indicated that there is an “out-clause” for the Golden Knights after three seasons.

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Report: Rocky Thompson Named Chicago Wolves Head Coach

Update (2:20 PM) – Both the Golden Knights and Chicago Wolves have sent out press releases confirming this hire. 

According to a report from TSN’s Elliotte Friedman, the Chicago Wolves, the Golden Knights AHL affiliate, have found a new head coach.

Because the Golden Knights control all hockey operations with the Wolves, the decision was made by George McPhee.

Thompson was hired to take over the head coach position in Windsor in 2015 and went on to an 81-40-11 record in two seasons which includes the Spitfires Memorial Cup win this year. Prior to Windsor, Thompson was an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers for one season. He was also an assistant with the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) and Oklahoma City Barons (AHL).

Thompson was an absolute menace on the ice as a player. He spent most of his career in the AHL, but did have short stints with the Calgary Flames (15 games) and Florida Panthers (10 games). He racked up 117 PIM in those 25 games and consistently averaged at least 175 PIM in each AHL season. One year, Thompson spent 275 minutes in the box in a 79 game season. His total was 1,382 penalty minutes in 630 career games.

From time to time, the players YouTube me and come in and say, ‘holy smokes, you were an animal.’ –Thompson to Calgary Herald

But, that’s not how he coaches.

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May Not Be A Golden Knight Yet (Or Possibly Ever), But We Like Tyler Wong

See updated post on Tyler Wong posted before his preseason hat trick. https://sinbin.vegas/non-vgk-contracted-player-standing-out-in-camp/

While it’s technically not an NHL contract, our man Reid Duke has a teammate. The Chicago Wolves announced the signing of 21-year-old forward Tyler Wong to a standard AHL contract.

The right-handed forward is coming off a monster year in the WHL, scoring 109 points in 69 games. The Lethbridge Hurricane split the league lead with 51 goals in the regular season. Wong also has AHL experience playing three games for the Toronto Marlies.

Wong’s speed and tenacity in puck drills throughout the week culminated in a two-goal performance… He’s the type of high-character, hard-working player the Leafs like; seeing whether he builds on his tryout opportunity makes him one to watch. -Kristen Shilton, TSN Maple Leafs Reporter

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KV55y0tWVjY

Before we get excited, let’s be realistic. First off, Wong signed an AHL contract with the Wolves, not the Golden Knights. Though he’ll be playing on the Golden Knights affiliate, he’s not under Vegas’ control contractually, and does not count as one of the 50 contracts Vegas may have. Any team can scoop up Wong at any moment if they please. However, George McPhee and the Golden Knights staff will get a chance to coach him throughout this season.

A stingy, competitive two-way forward that has the skill to consistently create offense and the defensive awareness to limit the opposition’s time and space. Excellent vision and creativity. Strong on the puck and quick to get on the backcheck. Very active defensively and doesn’t give up his own end to dominate offensively. Many smaller players play on the perimiter, but Wong isn’t afraid of going to the hard areas and battling for possession. A true all-around player with the drive to compete and win. –Eliteprospects.com

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Chicago Wolves, Golden Knights And The AHL FAQ

Rather than try to write an article that answers all the questions about the Golden Knights, Chicago Wolves, and their affiliation, I figured we should take out a step. Let’s just ask the questions, and then I’ll answer them. It’s the AHL FAQ, who knows maybe it’ll become a thing.

What is the AHL?

The American Hockey League is the premier minor league for the NHL.

Throughout the season, AHL players will be promoted (“recalled”) to the partner NHL club for a number of reasons. If an NHL player is injured, the team may recall a player from the AHL to temporarily take his place. They can then be sent back down to the minors (“assigned”) for a variety of reasons as well, including when an injured NHL player returns to full health. Every NHL team has its own affiliate in the AHL, from where more than 88 percent of active NHL players are graduates. -Golden Knights Press Release

Who are the Chicago Wolves?  

An AHL team that was previously part of the now folded International Hockey League (IHL). The Wolves were founded in 1994 and joined the AHL in 2001. They’ve won multiple Calder Cups (the AHL’s championship), but it’s the minor leagues, so who really cares.

What is the agreement between the Wolves and Golden Knights?

The Wolves will become the official primary AHL affiliate for the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights will be able to send players to the Chicago Wolves at any point during the NHL/AHL season and will also be able to recall them to the NHL at any point.

Who controls hockey decisions?

Under the current deal the Golden Knights will manage all aspects involving hockey     operations, such as personnel decisions, ice-time, and the hiring and firing of coaches.

Is this how the AHL usually works?

Normally, yes, but in the history of the Chicago Wolves, no. Their owner, Don Levin has always preferred to have control over hockey operations to ensure his organization had the best chance to win. Historically, that’s caused friction with the affiliating NHL club because their focus is usually on development rather than winning. Levin says his trust in George McPhee is why he was willing to relinquish all hockey decision making to the Golden Knights.

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Chicago Wolves Announced As Golden Knights AHL Affiliate

Brace yourself SinBinners, what we’ve been reporting since January is now official and it’s time for the local and national media types to report it like it’s breaking news. The Golden Knights will have the Chicago Wolves as their AHL affiliate for the 2017-18 season.

American Hockey League affiliates play a significant role in the success of all NHL clubs and are we are proud to have the Chicago Wolves as our first in team history. I would like to thank Don Levin, Wendell Young and the rest of the Wolves organization for their commitment to the game and helping young hockey players grow to reach their full potential as professionals. Chicago is without question one of the strongest, most passionate hockey communities in North America. This is a relationship that we truly believe will be mutually beneficial. -George McPhee in Press Release

McPhee has said he expects between six and eight players under Golden Knights control to be playing at the AHL level at any given point. Chicago’s central location in the country and two airports allow the team to quickly and easily get players from the AHL to the NHL, the primary concern for the Golden Knights next season.

In a conference call with season ticket holders in March McPhee detailed the type of relationship Vegas will have with the Wolves.

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. -McPhee

There are no details on the exact length of the contract, other than being described as “multi-year,” but rest assured, Vegas is in the market to move their affiliate closer to home as soon as possible. 

AHL Has No Expansion Applications; Vegas To Share With St. Louis?

Since the moment the Vegas Golden Knights became a reality there has really only been one name truly linked to them in regards to the AHL. That’s the Chicago Wolves, the current affiliate with the St. Louis Blues.

Why it made so much sense was because there appear to be plans in the works for the Blues to pick up and move their AHL affiliation to Kansas City. We discussed that in depth here. But here’s the problem, the AHL’s President and CEO David Andrews says they have yet to receive an application for expansion.

I don’t think we can go much beyond the middle of March without having a commitment with respect to where each of these NHL clubs are going to [have their affiliate] play and whether we are ready to expand. -David Andrews

Stephen Gross, a reporter from The Morning Call (it’s a newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I had to look it up so I figured I’d save you the time. Don’t worry, they’ve never heard of SinBin.vegas either, so the confusion is mutual) said Andrews put the odds at 50-50 that the league will indeed expand in time for next season.

So where does that leave Vegas in all of this?

It means there’s a 50-50 shot the Golden Knights and Blues will share an affiliate in the Chicago Wolves. GM George McPhee says Vegas will only have “six or eight guys” in the AHL, but the situation in Chicago gets tricky with the Blues still in the picture.

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AHL Affiliate In Chicago? LVRJ Reports Discussions

According to Steve Carp at the RJ, the Vegas Golden Knights are in discussions to lock in the Chicago Wolves as their AHL affiliate.

The Wolves are currently affiliated with the St. Louis Blues, but their deal with the NHL club expiries at the end of this season. The Creator offered a quick “no comment” to the RJ and the Chicago Wolves released this statement.

We have no comment on that rumor. We are affiliated with St. Louis and happy. -Lindsey Willhite, Chicago Wolves spokesman

Not that happy though, as St. Louis has been consistently linked to a project in Kansas City headed up by Lamar Hunt Jr., son of the NFL’s Chiefs founder, Lamar Hunt. There have also been disagreements between the Wolves organization and the Blues over coaching decisions and the handing of a few Blues owned players. Since the Wolves are privately owned, they have the final say, not the NHL parent club.

Sources tell NHL.com’s Lou Korac that the move to KC is “a done deal,” however that report was denied the day after it was reported.

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AHL/ECHL Affiliate News Roundup

The location of the Vegas Golden Knight AHL and ECHL affiliates is probably the next big piece of news on the horizon.

Back in August Murray Craven, joining the SinBin.vegas Podcast, identified Christmas as the target date to unveil the details on the Golden Knights’ minor league affiliations. Craven recently confirmed via email it will more likely come in January, and George McPhee agreed.

But as much as McPhee accomplished this summer, he still has additional off-ice tasks that have yet to be accomplished. He hopes to knock two of these off his list in the weeks just after the New Year, in January. “We’re going to be working on a couple of bigger items for our organization,” McPhee said. “We’ll be trying to get our physician group finalized, and working on an AHL affiliate opportunity.” -Dan Marrazza, VegasGoldenKnights.com

As for the AHL, The Creator mentioned on multiple occasions that the team will be an existing franchise. He also does not plan on owning the AHL franchise, at least for now.

McPhee’s plan isn’t to have many players at the AHL level anyway.

Most of our prospects will still be at the junior and college level, so there’s really no need to fill out an entire team. We’ll have six or eight guys that we can call up if we get banged up. But we’ll share for a couple years and then we’ll hone in on a place and see if we can have our own club. –George McPhee to NHL.com

Binghamton, NY, the former affiliate for the Ottawa Senators recently lost the team to Belleville, Ontario. The owner in Binghamton was quoted after losing the team saying “there will be an AHL team in Binghamton in 17-18.” Craven denied any involvement when we wrote about this in October, but it absolutely remains a possibility either via Vegas using Binghamton or an affiliation swap with another existing team.

Another organization that may make sense based on being under current ownership and not being affiliated is the Fort Wayne Komets (Indiana). They are the only team in either the ECHL or AHL who is currently unaffiliated.

As for the ECHL, Vegas is almost certainly going to jump on board with another team. Reno has been positioning itself recently to be the future home of an ECHL affiliate for Las Vegas, but they will not have anything in place by the time next season rolls around.

That’s all we’ve got. See ya in 2017 AHL/ECHL!

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