Carolina Hurricanes: Drop Charlotte; Affiliate with the Chicago Wolves

The Carolina Hurricanes have a new AHL Affiliate

The Carolina Hurricanes have moved on from the Charlotte Checkers after ten years and have found a new affiliate in the Chicago Wolves.

It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you that the Charlotte Checkers, who reported last week a new affiliation with the Flordia Panthers, will no longer be the market feeding players to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Instead, that job now befalls the Chicago Wolves who were left without an affiliate after the Golden Knights added the Henderson Silver Knights to the AHL. The Carolina Hurricanes will be the fifth affiliate of the Chicago Wolves since 2001 joining the Thrashers, Canucks, Blues, and Golden Knights.

After a fallout in negotiations with the Charlotte Checkers which resulted in the Checkers moving on to Florida, Don Waddell, who was the GM of the Thrashers who affiliated with the Wolves up until their relocation to Winnipeg, opted to affiliate with the final remaining AHL team for a three-year agreement.

Now, this level of change after a decade of consistency definitely comes with some ramifications. There will be plenty of movement between Chicago and Charlotte of players and even coaches. Every AHL player signed to an NHL contract or has NHL rights (recently drafted players for example) will be moving to Chicago to play for the Wolves for the upcoming season.

As for the coaching, every NHL contracted coach will also move or travel to Chicago. That includes developmental coaches such as Sergei Samsonov, Tim Gleason, Paul Schonfelder, and Peter Harrold. It also includes Ryan Warsofsky, who was the Head Coach last season for the Checkers. He will be joined by Patrick Dwyer and Bob Nardella as his assistant coaches in Chicago.

It is not an ideal scenario. Three years away from Charlotte and losing our ability to directly see our prospects compete and grow, but there are some good takeaways from this deal.

First of all, there isn’t a more professional organization in the AHL than the Chicago Wolves. Years of moving between affiliations and the confusion of being an affiliate of multiple teams last year have forced them to hold their own ground and not rely on the NHL teams to develop their brand for them.

That means that there should be no expected uniform changes, which was actually a part of the deal. The Wolves have their own very well managed brand and will continue to wear the maroon and gold moving forward.

They are the only team in the AHL to have a full TV deal, even while living in the shadow of an Original-Six NHL team thanks to a misstep by the Blackhawks of not allowing home games to be aired locally in a greedy move to try and sell more tickets. That has elevated the Wolves in the eyes of Chicago Residents.

It doesn’t Hurt that the Wolves have a history of winning and making the playoffs. In their 18-year AHL history (not counting the canceled season this year due to COVID), they have only failed to make the playoffs five times. They have made the Calder Cup Finals four times and won it twice in that span. That includes the loss to the Charlotte Checkers just last season in the Finals.

Speaking of the Checkers the Hurricanes and the Checkers have parted on kinder terms than expected. Perhaps that may be an opening for a return if the two teams can figure out better negotiation terms in three years.

As for the future with the Chicago Wolves, there is a serious excitement among the staff at the Carolina Hurricanes to try and leverage the Wolves to the team’s own future and build upon their professionalism to try and create the winning attitude among their players to succeed when they get the NHL level. Don Waddell had this to say:

“We are proud to be affiliated with such a historically and financially successful American Hockey League franchise,. I’m confident our prospects will receive first-class treatment in Chicago, while continuing to be guided by coaches, management and trainers who work closely with the parent club in Raleigh.”

This will be a serious adjustment for many fans of both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Charlotte Checkers. By all means, continue to support the Checkers, but welcome the Chicago Wolves into the family as another team that carries value for the Carolina hockey community.