Lightning, Crunch extend partnership

The Syracuse Crunch and Tampa Bay Lightning jointly announced today an extension of their affiliation agreement, which is entering its third season.

The extension guarantees Tampa Bay’s top prospects will be developing their talents in Syracuse through the 2016-17 American Hockey League season. The Lightning prospect pipeline was recently ranked the second best in the NHL by ESPN and features the number one overall goaltending prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy.

"We are thrilled to be extending our partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and continuing to grow our strong relationships with Steve Yzerman, Julien Brisebois and the entire Lightning organization," said Crunch owner Howard Dolgon.

"We are pleased to be announcing the extension of our affiliation with the Crunch," Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman said. "The support of the Syracuse community and as well as from Howard Dolgon and his group has been fantastic these past two seasons and we look forward to continuing to build on these relationships for the coming years."

During the 2012-13 season, the Crunch’s first season as the Lightning’s top affiliate, the Crunch completed their most successful season to date, making their first appearance in the Calder Cup Finals. Since the start of the affiliation, 26 former or current Crunch players have played for the Bolts. The Crunch own a record of 74-54-10-14 over the two seasons they’ve been affiliated with the Lightning.

"The partnership with the Crunch has been of tremendous help in improving our minor league development program," Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said. "The support from Howard Dolgon’s group, the facilities at our players’ disposal, the travel and the local fan support have all contributed to us graduating many players to the NHL these past two years and we are happy to know we will be developing future Lightning players in Syracuse for the coming seasons."

The Syracuse Crunch are entering their 21st year of operation in the American Hockey League and boast the longest, current independent ownership group, led by Howard Dolgon. The Crunch 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 (1994-1999), Columbus (2000-2009) 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.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning have been an excellent partner for the Syracuse Crunch and for Onondaga County," said Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. "Congratulations to Howard Dolgon and his management team for continuing this strong partnership and thank you to the Tampa Bay Lightning for contributing to and recognizing how successful the Syracuse Crunch are and can be."

The Lightning joined the National Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1992 and 12 years later, in 2004, were crowned Stanley Cup Champions. In addition to their Stanley Cup the Lightning have made six other post-season appearances (1996, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2014). 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.