Crunch add Panthers as partner for 2020-21

The Tampa Bay Lightning have partnered with the Florida Panthers to offer use of their American Hockey League affiliate Syracuse Crunch for the 2020-21 season.

As part of the partnership, the Panthers will have the ability to assign players to the Crunch to train, practice and play. Florida’s AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, opted out of the 2020-21 season following safety and logistical concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Crunch coaching and support staff will remain intact, led by head coach Benoit Groulx.

“From the Tampa Bay Lightning perspective, the 2020-21 AHL season is about providing a safe and steady place for our players to train, practice and play some games,” said Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois. “The opportunity to partner with our cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, for what will be a most unusual season will allow the Crunch to ice a more competitive team to the benefit of our fans and our players.”

“We are excited and honored to work with our neighbors, the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Syracuse Crunch organization,” said Panthers general manager Bill Zito. “It is a unique chance to work in tandem with our cross-state rivals in a collaborative effort to provide the necessary environment for our prospects to train and compete in the 2020-21 AHL season. The fact that our two competing franchises have decided to work together for the collective good is evidence of the underlying goodwill and community that truly exists in our sport.”