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Tampa Bay Lightning, Syracuse Crunch extend affiliation agreement for up to seven years

By Eric Reinhardt

Date:

Howard Dolgon
Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon on Wednesday discussed a new long-term affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning during a news conference at the Onondaga County War Memorial in downtown Syracuse. (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday jointly announced a five-year affiliation extension, with an option for two additional years.

The extension “ensures” Tampa Bay’s top prospects will develop their talents in Syracuse through the 2022-23 season, with a mutual option for 2023-24 and 2024-25, according to a news release issued Wednesday.

This affiliation extension includes the restructuring of the agreement for the 2018-19 season.

The Tampa Bay Lighting are part of the National Hockey League (NHL), while the Syracuse Crunch are their top minor league affiliate and part of the American Hockey League (AHL).

“It’s a new, seven-year deal that’s effective with the 2018-2019 season,” Howard Dolgon, owner of the Syracuse Crunch, said in speaking to reporters at the Onondaga County War Memorial. “They’re the best partner we’ve had. They’re the best organization in the NHL. We’re proud to be partners with them.”

The affiliation extension comes a day after the Lightning announced that Steve Yzerman had stepped down as general manager (GM) to become an advisor to Julien BriseBois, the team’s new GM. BriseBois had been the Crunch GM for the past six years.

“He will continue in a dual role as GM of the Lightning and GM of the Crunch, at least through this current season,” said Dolgon.

“We are very pleased to be extending our affiliation with the Syracuse Crunch today,” BriseBois said in the release. “The Crunch and Howard Dolgon, along with the city of Syracuse, continue to offer our players an excellent development environment, which is of paramount importance to sustained success in today’s NHL. We look forward to continue this great partnership for years to come.”

The teams have recently completed their sixth year of the affiliation. In that time, the Crunch own a 231-154-41-30 record and have made four postseason appearances, including the team’s two most successful seasons to date with its first trip to the Calder Cup Finals in 2013 and again in 2017.

The Syracuse Crunch will begin their 25th year of operation in the 2018-19 season and “boast the longest independent ownership group, led by Dolgon,” per the release. The Crunch have the fourth-longest current tenure of any AHL team.

The Lightning are the fourth primary NHL affiliate of the Crunch, which previously partnered with Vancouver (1994-2000), Columbus (2000-2010), and Anaheim (2010-2012). Syracuse had a dual affiliation with Vancouver and Pittsburgh from 1997 to 1999. The Crunch have played their home games in the Onondaga County-owned War Memorial Arena since their inaugural season in 1994-95.

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com