The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team has signed an affiliation agreement with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL, the professional developmental league for the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League. Cincinnati joins the Rochester Americans, the Sabres’ AHL affiliate, as the chief minor-league development teams for the Sabres organization.
“We’re excited to be able to partner with the Cyclones and fill an important part of our minor league system,” said Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill. “Part of building a championship-caliber team is having effective and cohesive player development across all levels of the organization. That is especially true at the minor league level and I think that we have found a strong development partner in Cincinnati. The Cyclones have built a reputation for being a competitive ECHL club, while helping players refine their games and progress to the next levels of professional hockey. The ECHL has proven to be a valuable training ground for prospects in the past and we anticipate Cincinnati becoming an asset to our organization in terms of developing talent for the NHL and AHL levels.”
Since returning to the ECHL before the 2006-07 season, the Cyclones have been Kelly Cup Champions twice (2008 and 2010) and made the playoffs in eight of nine seasons. The team also won its division in 2009 and 2013 and was crowned ECHL Eastern Conference Champions in 2014.
“We are thrilled to begin our relationship with the Buffalo Sabres organization,” said Cyclones General Manager Kristin Ropp. “They have a great passion and dedication to cultivating the depth of their organization, and we are proud to work with them and the Rochester Americans to see this to fruition.”
For Cincinnati, the move comes following a 10-year partnership with the Nashville Predators, while the Sabres recently concluded a two-year relationship with the now-defunct Elmira Jackals. This affiliation will be a reunion of sorts for the cities of Cincinnati and Buffalo, as the Sabres’ American Hockey League (AHL) Affiliate from 1971-1974 was the Cincinnati Swords.
The original Cincinnati Cyclones franchise debuted in the ECHL in 1990 before playing in the International Hockey League from 1992 to 2001. Prior to the 2001-02 season, a new franchise returned to the ECHL under the Cyclones name before going dormant from 2004 to 2006.
The Rochester Americans will serve as Cincinnati’s new AHL affiliate, and have been the AHL affiliate of the Sabres since the organizations realigned prior to the 2011-12 season. This is not the first time Cincinnati and Rochester have been affiliated, as the two clubs teamed up in 2010-11 when the Americans were affiliated with the Florida Panthers. There will also be a familiar face behind the bench for the Rochester in assistant coach Chuck Weber, who was head coach for the Cyclones from 2006-10, leading them to Kelly Cup championships in 2008 and 2010.
The Americans and Sabres have been affiliated since the 1979-80 season, and aside from a three-year stint with the Panthers from 2008-11, the teams have been affiliated for 35 years which marks the longest active relationship between an NHL team and its AHL counterpart.
Additionally, the 2016-17 season also saw 16 different players earn call-ups to Buffalo, including six that made their NHL debuts. Rochester is the second-oldest team in the AHL, having wrapped up their 61st season in 2016-17. They have earned six Calder Cup championships since their inception in 1956.
The ECHL, formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League, is considered the premier “AA” professional hockey league and has sent hundreds of players, coaches, officials and administrators to the AHL and NHL ranks since its founding in 1988.
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