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Lightning, Crunch announce six-year extension

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Syracuse Crunch announced a six-year affiliation extension, ensuring Tampa Bay’s top prospects will develop their talents in Syracuse through the 2021-22 season.


“Under the ownership of Jeff Vinik, the hockey leadership of Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois and the tremendous business staff led by chief executive officer Steve Griggs, the Tampa Bay Lightning have clearly established themselves as one of the premier franchises in the National Hockey League,” Crunch owner Howard Dolgon said. “We at the Syracuse Crunch are proud to extend this long-term affiliation and are confident that we will continue to see talented young players hone their skills in our backyard before making their mark with the Lightning. Our organizations share a philosophy that touches on all aspects of our sport. We are committed to being competitive both on and off the ice and strive to bring the best product to the best fans in the American Hockey League.”


Since the start of the affiliation in 2012, 36 players have appeared with both the Crunch and the Bolts. Fourteen former Crunch players are currently on the Lightning’s 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs roster, including Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin, J.T. Brown, Andrej Sustr, Cedric Paquette, Nikita Nesterov, Jonathan Marchessault and Andrei Vasilevskiy.


“We are pleased to be extending our affiliation with the Syracuse Crunch,” Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman said. “The Crunch and Howard Dolgon, along with the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County, have been, and continue to be, an excellent place to develop our prospects. We look forward to what will hopefully be many successful years to come on and off the ice.”


The teams have recently completed their fourth year of the affiliation. In that time, the Crunch own a 147-108-31-18 record and have made two postseason appearances, including the team’s most successful season to date with its first trip to the Calder Cup Finals in 2013.


“We are extremely pleased with the fact that our prospects will continue to play for the Syracuse Crunch for the foreseeable future,” Crunch general manager Julien BriseBois said. “Syracuse has proven to be a great environment to develop players. We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Howard Dolgon or work with better people than the Crunch staff led by Jim Sarosy and Vance Lederman. The support of the community since our arrival in Syracuse has been nothing short of tremendous and we look forward to the privilege of playing in front of the loud and passionate fans of the Crunch for many years to come.”


The Syracuse Crunch will begin their 23rd year of operation in the 2016-17 season and boast the longest independent ownership group, led by Howard Dolgon, and have the sixth-longest tenure of any AHL team.


The Lightning are the fourth primary NHL affiliate of the Crunch, who 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. The Lightning joined the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1992 and were crowned Stanley Cup Champions in 2004. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2011 and to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. Beginning with the 2010-11 season, the Lightning and their AHL affiliate have been run by vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman and assistant general manager Julien BriseBois.