Carolina Hurricanes: Addressing the AHL Affiliation Rumors

There is a rumored discussion that the Carolina Hurricanes will drop the Charlotte Checkers as their AHL affiliate. Let’s break it down.

These aren’t new rumors. We’ve heard inklings about the Carolina Hurricanes moving on from the Checkers for months now. The Chicago Wolves, currently the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues, are the rumored next Carolina Hurricanes affiliate according to Luke DeCock of the News & Observer who quoted Don Waddel saying this:

“Nothing’s done yet, but certainly we’re looking at all of our options, Chicago is certainly one of them.”

I, personally, have not placed any value into these rumors. It makes no sense from a logistical standpoint. It also doesn’t jive well with the rest of the efforts done by the Carolina Hurricanes and actually stands opposed to it all.

Everything the Hurricanes have done since Tom Dundon has arrived to take the reins of the team has been about building a Carolina Identity that goes beyond the triangle. The idea was to create a fanbase that had reach across the two Carolinas and even a little bit past that.

It started with the new third jerseys that featured the NC flag beautifully ghosted on the shoulder and the NC outline dedicatedly hidden between the two warning flags. That is when we knew that this new phase of the Carolina Hurricanes meant Carolina Hockey for all not just those around Raleigh.

Then came the new ECHL affiliate. The Florida Everblades, a team founded by former Carolina Hurricanes majority owner Peter Karmanos, was no longer going to be the affiliate and the Greenville Swamprabbits, who spent a season unaffiliated in hopes of becoming a part of the Carolina Hockey family became the newest ECHL affiliate for the team.

This created a perfect trifecta of hockey in the two states and connected them wonderfully. Players moving up the rankings towards the NHL didn’t have far to go and call ups for the Checkers and the Canes were as easy as can be.

Not to mention that Canes fans were regularly doing trips to visit these affiliates, getting the chance to peek in on the prospect pipeline as it grew in Carolina. Fans of these organizations were now also invested into the Canes, generating a resounding echo chamber of fandom.

Ripping out the Checkers from the middle of it all and going to Chicago undoes all of this completely and throws a wrench into a well-oiled fan making machine.

Now, I understand the business side of the rumors. Affiliates have to pay for their affiliation and Dr. Michael Kahn and the Checkers have been enjoying a deep discount for a while and are probably unwilling to see the rent hike up with a new deal.

According to DeCock there has been some conflict between the two hockey organizations that led to last year’s contract being agreed on last-minute at training camp.

But why not get smart and figure it out? Both teams have leverage over the other, the Checkers are the current Calder Cup Champions, but they needed Carolina Hurricanes prospects to compete. Both are run by very business savvy owners.

If you ask me, these rumors and conversation is just another way to remind the Checkers that because of the merry-go-round of AHL affiliation that has happened since Vegas entered the league, there are now options that be looked at. It’s a power move. A good one at that.

The Checkers released a statement indicating that the Carolina Hurricanes have not approached them in the decision making with the new affiliation.

If this statement is true and the Carolina Hurricanes move forward with affiliation with the Wolves, the team will stand to lose a lot of the goodwill they have built with fans. Perhaps the pandemic will help show reason and keep Canes Hockey in Carolina and this speculation would have all been for nothing.

Question for CC Readers: Why should the Carolina Hurricanes keep the Checkers at all costs?

Next: Dundon wants the Fans in their seats next year
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