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Panthers make AHL shift to Springfield official

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Cats' farm team will sport different name, duds for the third year in a row

Florida's new AHL affiliate will take over for the Falcons
Florida's new AHL affiliate will take over for the Falcons
Lisa Meyer/Getty Images

After twenty-three years, the Portland Pirates are officially no more.

The Florida Panthers have signed a multi-year affiliation agreement with Springfield LLC, shifting its farm team south to Massachusetts. Springfield Hockey LLC, a group of local investors, moved quickly to fill the void created when the Arizona Coyotes purchased the Springfield Falcons and relocated the franchise to Tucson for the upcoming season.

The yet to be named team will play out of MassMutual Center and remain in the AHL's Atlantic Division. Panthers' assistant to the regional manager general manager Eric Joyce will be club's general manager and oversee all aspects of its operations.

While it's great that Springfield, a charter member of the AHL, gets to remain in the league, it's sad to see professional hockey leave Portland. Word is a group led by former Pirates executives W. Godfrey Wood and Brad Church  is already working to bring an ECHL franchise to the city, perhaps in time for the 2017-18 season.