The Gwinnett Gladiators have announced that they added the Buffalo Sabres as a second affiliate for the 2011/2012 season. The other affiliate is the Phoenix Coyotes. One of the primary benefits to having an ECHL affiliate is the ability to sign players to minor league contracts and having a set place for them to play when the AHL roster is full. It’s also a great place for players to continue to develop when they’re too old for junior leagues but not quite ready for AHL action.
Here’s the Gladiators press release:
Second Affiliate Added
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Gwinnett Gladiators have signed a second affiliation agreement for the 2011-12 season to serve as an ECHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League. This additional NHL affiliate designation will be concurrent to the recently signed affiliation agreement between the Gladiators and the Phoenix Coyotes on August 17th. The Sabres also maintain an NHL affiliation with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
“We’re very excited to share in an affiliation with Gwinnett,” Buffalo Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine said. “We take pride in building our team with competitive players from our minor league affiliates and Gwinnett will provide us with even more opportunity to succeed in developing young talent.”
Gwinnett will serve as an ECHL affiliate for two NHL teams in tandem for the third time in team history. Gwinnett maintained dual affiliations with Chicago and Atlanta during the 2008-09 season and with Columbus and Atlanta during the 2009-10 season.
“Having two affiliates could be a challenge,” said Gladiators President Steve Chapman. “We could be stocked very well by our affiliates. Gwinnett should have several good prospects, but any of those players can be called up at any time leaving the team short-handed. I know we will pull together & battle during the call-ups. It is a challenge for the die-hard fans to endure the mass call-ups – but that is part of the game and it’s good for the prospects. I think we have the leadership in place behind the bench and on the ice to see us through.”
The Gladiators have fielded 156 call-ups that have involved 112 players over the first eight seasons the team has been based in Gwinnett. The Gladiators have had at least 22 player call-ups to the American Hockey League in each of the past four seasons. During the 2009-10 season, Gwinnett saw a record 28 call-ups to the AHL, while the 23 call-ups last season were the second most in team history.
“Buffalo is an appealing affiliate to us for many reasons,” said Chapman. “They have always been an organization that builds within their own system. The new ownership in Buffalo supports the philosophy of building from within. In addition, Wrobo’s (John Wroblewski) relationship with Ron Rolston, the head Coach in Rochester, cemented the connection. We’re looking forward to beginning a strong relationship with the Sabres of developing talented players and upstanding individuals.”
Buffalo becomes the fifth NHL team to be affiliated with the Gladiators for assignment of draft prospects and player development. Gwinnett served as the ECHL affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers for eight seasons from the Gladiators inaugural 2003-04 season until the recent sale of the Thrashers franchise and subsequent relocation to Winnipeg, Manitoba in May.
The Gladiators begin the upcoming 2011-12 season under first-year head coach John Wroblewski on the road in Florida October 14th and 15th. Home Opening Weekend (dubbed “Atlanta’s Hockey Homecoming”) is scheduled for October 21st and 22nd against Greenville. A complete game schedule and promotional event information is available online at the official team website, www.gwinnettgladiators.com.
The Gladiators are members of the 20-team ECHL, America’s Premier “AA” Hockey League and play all home games at the 11,355-seat Arena at Gwinnett Center, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth, GA.