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Avalanche to affiliate with Cleveland in 2007-08

avalanche_200.jpgThe Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club of the National Hockey League announced on Sunday that it has signed a long-term affiliation agreement with the new American Hockey League franchise in Cleveland, which will begin play in the 2007-08 season.

"It has always been this organization’s goal to have our own independent farm team where we could develop prospects with our philosophy," said Avalanche executive vice president and general manager Francois Giguere. "This organization in Cleveland is committed to building a strong hockey team and we’re looking forward to being a part of that effort.

"We’ll have most of our prospects on the same team, which should help their development as well as their understanding of our culture and philosophy," added Giguere.

The Avalanche has a history with the American Hockey League dating back to the team’s first year in Denver (1995-96) when the Cornwall Aces served as the club’s primary affiliate. After that first season, Colorado would have affiliation agreements with AHL clubs in Hershey, Pa. (1996-2005); Lowell, Mass. (2005-06) and Albany, N.Y. (2006-07). Serving as the Avalanche’s top affiliate, the Hershey Bears won the Calder Cup in 1997.

"We’re excited to begin this relationship with the club in Cleveland," said Avalanche assistant general manager Greg Sherman, who will serve as the organization’s primary contact with the Cleveland franchise. "This is a very strong and experienced organization in Cleveland and we’re convinced that this affiliation will be mutually beneficial."

The new Cleveland franchise was purchased by a group led by Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, in May. Gilbert is also chairman and founder of the nation’s largest online home mortgage lender, Quicken Loans, Inc.

"We look forward to our new relationship with one of the premier organizations in the NHL. We’ll approach our hockey team the same way we approach everything with the Cavaliers and at Quicken Loans Arena. That is, we simply want to be the best franchise in the AHL and we know the Avalanche want that as well," said Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena president Len Komoroski.

The history of hockey in Cleveland dates back to the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League, who played in the city from 1936-1972 and won an AHL record-tying nine Calder Cup championships. Another incarnation of the Barons skated at the Quicken Loans Arena from 2001-06.