The Grand Rapids Griffins and Detroit Red Wings on Thursday announced a five-year extension of their affiliation agreement, ensuring that one of the most fruitful partnerships in hockey will continue through at least the 2021-22 season.
This 15-year-old affiliation saw the Griffins win the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup championship twice (2017 and 2013) during the most recent five-year deal, making Grand Rapids just the third active AHL franchise to claim two cups within a span of five seasons. Coupled with the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup in 2008, this affiliation is one of only two current AHL-NHL pairings (Providence 1999-Boston 2011) that has produced a championship for both teams.
The Griffins, who reached at least the second round of the playoffs in all five years of the previous extension, won more regular season games (225-124-14-17), playoff games (49-29) and playoff series (12-3) than any AHL team over that span.
In addition, the Griffins (Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy) and Red Wings (Presidents’ Trophy) won their respective regular season titles in 2005-06, becoming the first of only two sets of affiliates (Hershey-Washington in 2009-10) in at least the last 32 years to claim their leagues’ best records in the same season.
In all, the relationship between Michigan’s premier hockey teams has brought two cups, five conference finals appearances, one regular season championship and four division titles to Grand Rapids since 2002, along with one cup, three conference finals berths, three regular season championships and seven division crowns to Detroit.
Geographically, with the two teams located just 157 miles apart, the affiliation remains among the closest in the sport. That proximity has proved beneficial for the Red Wings on many occasions, as the Griffins have sent 85 players – as well as current head coach Jeff Blashill and assistant coach Pat Ferschweiler – on to Hockeytown since the affiliation’s inception.
“Our arrangement with the Griffins has been very beneficial for both organizations,” said Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland. “The American Hockey League is the premier development league, and Grand Rapids has proven itself to be a model franchise both on and off the ice. We are thrilled that the Griffins have captured two championships in five seasons, both for the fan base in west Michigan and for the development of our young players, who benefit from long playoff runs and championship atmospheres.”
This new agreement maintains Detroit’s oversight of Grand Rapids’ hockey operations, led by Red Wings Assistant General Manager Ryan Martin, who also serves as the Griffins’ GM. It also calls for the Griffins to host at least one Red & White Game over the next five years. The most recent of four such intrasquad games at Van Andel Arena was held in 2011.
“The relationship between the Griffins and the Red Wings is stronger than ever as we work together to develop their young players in a winning environment,” said Scott Gorsline, senior vice president of DP Fox and alternate governor for the Griffins. “Ken Holland, Ryan Martin and the entire Red Wings organization are great partners and have delivered for our fans, with two Calder Cup championships here in Grand Rapids over the last five years.”
For the Red Wings, the impact of the affiliation has been unmistakable on the ice. The names of nine former Griffins were engraved on the Stanley Cup following Detroit’s 2008 title, and 76 Grand Rapids alumni played for the Red Wings over the final 13 seasons of their remarkable 25-year playoff streak that concluded in 2016.
Most recently, 31 of the 36 players who appeared in at least one game for the Red Wings in 2016-17 also spent time with the Griffins during their careers. Thirteen of them were recalled from Grand Rapids last season (excluding conditioning stints), including seven – Tyler Bertuzzi, Jared Coreau, Nick Jensen, Robbie Russo, Dan Renouf, Evgeny Svechnikov and Matt Lorito – who made their NHL debuts.