Amerks ink pacts with Sabres, Panthers

The Rochester Americans announced on Monday separate affiliation agreements with the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, with each team providing up to 12 players for the 2006-07 season.

The one-year deal extends the longest working relationship in professional hockey, between Buffalo and Rochester, to 28 years.

“We are happy to get our affiliation plans with the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers completed before the end of the regular season,” said Amerks President and CEO Steve Donner. “It gives all three organizations time to plan our roster for next year and gives our fans a clear picture of what team we are working with and what their roles will be.”

In 2005-06, the Amerks celebrated their historic 50th anniversary, with the Sabres and the Panthers as affiliated partners. On Aug. 31, 2005, the Sabres and Panthers entered into an agreement, allowing Florida to supply eight to 10 top prospects to the Rochester Americans.

“We are very excited by the opportunity to again place some of our top prospects with the Rochester Americans,” said Florida Panthers General Manager Mike Keenan. “The Americans are one of the storied franchises in the American Hockey League and have a proven track record for developing young players for NHL competition. We are very pleased with the progress of our prospects in Rochester this year and we look forward to continuing to aid in the success of their team next season.”

In the last 27 seasons with Buffalo as their NHL affiliate, the Amerks have won three Calder Cup championships (1983, 1987 and 1996) and have advanced to six other AHL finals. The Amerks also captured nine regular season titles. The 2004-05 season was a banner year for the organization. With a record of 51-19-4-6 (112 points), the Amerks captured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (Overall Regular Season Points champion) and the Sam Pollock Trophy (North Division Champion).

Over the last seven seasons, the Rochester Americans have been the most successful AHL team in terms of number of points earned. Further, the Amerks have made the postseason 23 of 27 seasons while with the Sabres. Rochester’s latest playoff streak lasted 16 seasons from 1990 to 2005, which was the third longest streak in AHL history.

Currently, 16 of the Sabres’ 24 players spent time the AHL with the Amerks, including Jason Pominville and Derek Roy. Both players started the season in Rochester and have now played in over 50 NHL games with the Sabres.

It was during the 1979-80 campaign that the two organizations first formed a professional hockey partnership. Billy Inglis was the first head coach of the Amerks while partnered with the Sabres. Future coaches would include Mike Keenan, Joe Crozier, Jim Schoenfeld, Don Lever, John Van Boxmeer, John Tortorella, Brian McCutcheon and Randy Cunneyworth. Both Keenan (1994) and Tortorella (2004) went on to coach NHL teams to Stanley Cup victories.

In 50 seasons of Amerks hockey, Rochester has been affiliated with the Sabres, Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. Rochester won its first three Calder Cups in 1965, 1966 and 1968.