Maine Mariners Are The New ECHL Affiliate Of The New York Rangers

Shawn Patrick Ouellette

The rumblings from earlier in the season regarding the future of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits became official earlier this week. As reported earlier in the season, the Swamp Rabbits were looking for a closer National Hockey League affiliate, and on Monday they began their search for a new parent club as the Maine Mariners announced their affiliation agreement with the Hartford Wolf Pack and New York Rangers. The terms of the agreement are undisclosed regarding the requirements for Hartford and the length of the agreement, but from Hartford’s perspective, the move puts their ECHL affiliate closer in the northeast.

Moving Affiliates Closer

The trend of moving affiliates closer to the parent club is becoming stronger as a frequent number of teams are moving closer to their parent clubs. In the American Hockey League, a majority of teams are now closer to their parent clubs. For instance, the western Californian teams established a new division in the West. Teams such as the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets have their AHL teams, the San Jose Barracuda and the Manitoba Moose respectively, play their home games in the same arena as their NHL counterparts.

The split with the Greenville organization was a mutual decision. Logistically, player transactions were difficult to do between Hartford and Greenville. Players were not able to be called up or sent down on the day of a game and make it in time to play for either Hartford or Greenville. One of the issues is distance. Hartford’s airport is about 15 minutes away from the XL Center, whereas Greenville’s airport is about 30 minutes away. In addition, there are no direct flights between Hartford and Greenville, with players having to have a layover in Charlotte or a different destination. If we think about the process of calling up players, this gets messy. The travel time is not efficient enough, call-ups would have to be in advanced, and if any sudden injuries occur, then Hartford had to sign players through professional tryout agreements from nearby ECHL clubs.

The Greenville Relationship

It is never easy to split with a club that has been with the organization for many years. In fact, the Swamp Rabbits were affiliated with the Rangers and Wolf Pack since the beginning of their inception. Before the Swamp Rabbits name, the organization was known as the Greenville Road Warriors. The Wolf Pack and Rangers were the only affiliates of Greenville. The organization chose Greenville after the Charlotte Checkers moved from the ECHL to the AHL in the before the 2010-2011 season. Prior to Greenville, Hartford was affiliated with Charlotte for 14 years. The Swamp Rabbits was with our organization for a total of eight years.

The direction for both clubs was to become closer. The Swamp Rabbits wanted a regional affiliate while Hartford wanted their ECHL team closer.

Why Maine?

The Maine Mariners were open for an affiliation for the 2018-2019 season. This upcoming season will be the first year for the Mariners. Ironically, Spectra by Comcast Spectator operates the arena in Portland and also manage and owns the team. The Wolf Pack and the XL Center is managed by Spectra as well.  You can say the Rangers organization is growing their relationship with Spectra.

Who would have thought the Flyers and Rangers would be good business partners? This is true with bitter rivals the Philadelphia Flyers are also owned by Comcast. Another interesting aspect is that former Flyers and Sabres forward Danny Briere will be part of the operations for Maine.

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