The Florida Panthers announced they have entered into a four-year affiliation agreement with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League starting in 2015-16. This ends a four-year run with the San Antonio Rampage.
The relationship with the Rampage produced a playoff appearance in 2011-12 and after two straight misses, it looks like the Silver and Black will be back in the postseason this year, and could possibly be set to make a deep run. A Calder Cup would sure be a nice way for the two organizations to part ways.
Portland is currently the farm team of the Arizona Coyotes, who are expected to move their AHL operations to San Antonio, as the circuit seeks to line up its locations and affiliations in a more geographically-friendly way.
The Pirates, who have been in Portland for twenty-two seasons, trace their roots back to the NAHL's Erie Blades (1975-1982), who joined the AHL in 1981, and Baltimore Skipjacks (1982-1993). The club calls the recently-renovated Cross Insurance Arena home. The Pirates captured the Calder Cup in 1994 and lost in the finals in 1996.
Eric Joyce will remain the Panthers' AHL-level GM, overseeing all matters related to the franchise's minor league hockey operations.
Having a new AHL team to root for will take a little getting used to, but it was inevitable with the league's shift westward. Let's give the Rampage a proper sendoff as we prepare to welcome Portland as our "Maine" minor-league squeeze next season.