JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Icemen are linking up with one of the biggest names in hockey.
The team announced a new affiliation agreement on Tuesday with the NHL’s New York Rangers and the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack. That links one of the most storied teams in NHL history with a Jacksonville franchise that is expanding its footprint in town.
“I thought I’d try not to like post it on Twitter and tell everybody right away because I was so excited,” said Icemen owner Andy Kauffman.
“No, huge deal. Again, we’re in this for the long term, right. So, again, we live here. This is our hometown. We want to see this be super successful both on and off the ice and this was a huge step in that continued direction.”
The Icemen had previously served as the affiliate for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. The Icemen have made big announcements in 2021, including major renovations to the Jacksonville Ice and Sportsplex to remake it into the home base for the Icemen. It will be called the Igloo when nearly $20 million in renovations are complete next year.
“The New York Rangers are excited to begin our partnership with the Jacksonville Icemen,” said Chris Drury, Rangers president and general manager. “We are eager to begin this next chapter of professional hockey in our organization, and we look forward to developing future Rangers players in Jacksonville.”
Kauffman said that between “six and 10 players” from the affiliates will be on the Icemen roster this season, and some familiar names that local fans are used to will be back.
What does Tuesday’s announcement mean for Jacksonville?
Prestige and proximity.
For starters, it links one of the most storied franchises in the NHL to the area for the next two seasons. New York has won the Stanley Cup four times. The AHL level is universally considered as the top level below the NHL. The ECHL, the league that the Icemen play in, are a step under the AHL.
And the location is far more favorable to travel between Jacksonville and both Hartford and New York. It’s a far easier plane trip than Florida to Canada.
“We’re grateful for Winnipeg, they were amazing partners, but logistically it was also tough that being all the way in Canada eve when there wasn’t Covid, the travel wasn’t exactly ideal, right,” Kauffman said. “So that we have direct flights to Hartford and New York and so our players shuttling back and forth, it’ll be a lot easier for them and the organizations as well.”