Portland, Buffalo announce affiliation agreement

ahl06_200.jpgThe AHL’s Portland Pirates announced today a new, long-term affiliation agreement with the Buffalo Sabres effective with the 2008-2009 AHL season. The announcement was made in Portland by Pirates managing owner/CEO Brian Petrovek, Pirates chairman/governor Lyman Bullard, Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn, and Sabres general manager Darcy Regier.

“This is an exciting day for fans of hockey throughout our state to partner with an eastern US city with one of the richest histories in professional hockey dating back to the turn of the century. From an initial meeting with Larry and Darcy last fall and our follow-up with Chief Operating Officer Dan DiPofi, we knew this would be a great fit for our fans and our business, one that we expect will bring exciting, championship caliber performances on the ice for years to come, along with a deeply rooted commitment to our community off the ice as well. Today’s announcement represents another important building block in our growth and commitment to professional hockey in Maine,” said Petrovek and Bullard in a joint statement.

Before teaming up with the Pirates, the Sabres were affiliated with the Rochester Americans for 29 seasons, the longest such partnership in professional hockey between an NHL team and its AHL affiliate. During that span, Rochester had a record of 1,137-932-238-13 in 2,320 regular season games (.593 winning percentage) and made the playoffs 24 out of the 29 seasons. The team won its division title eight times, advanced to the Calder Cup Finals six times, winning the Calder Cup three of those years (1983, 1987 and 1996). A number of current Sabres players, including Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, and Paul Gaustad, helped Rochester to its best season record in team history when it earned 112 points during the 2004-2005 season.

“We are excited to begin our AHL affiliation with the Portland Pirates and the city of Portland,” said Buffalo managing partner Larry Quinn. “I am looking forward to working with Lyman Bullard, Brian Petrovek and Brian Williams, and the entire Pirates organization. I have been impressed with their professionalism from day one and am excited to build our new relationship both personally and professionally.”

“There is a rich history of professional hockey in Portland and we hope to add to that winning tradition,” said Sabres general manager Darcy Regier. “During our tenure with our previous AHL affiliation, our franchise model was to draft and to develop young prospects and build our success from a core group within. With our current roster of players like Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek, we have been able to develop our system with positive results. It’s critical for the survival and success of the Buffalo Sabres franchise to continue to add quality, young players that can develop within our system and grow as professionals.”

The new long-term agreement between the Pirates and the Buffalo Sabres guarantees professional hockey in the city of Portland through 2011. Since the Maine Mariners inaugural season in 1977, over 1,000 games have been played in front of over 3 million fans at the American Hockey League level. Dating back to the days of the Mariners, the AHL has played hockey in Portland for over 30 years. Only five other teams (Hershey, Rochester, Providence, Springfield and Cleveland) have had an American Hockey League franchise in their city longer than Portland.

Buffalo becomes the third NHL affiliate in Pirates history. During their five-year affiliation with the Washington Capitals (2000-2005), the Pirates compiled a .535 regular-season winning percentage and made the playoffs three out of the five seasons. During their three-year affiliation with the Anaheim Ducks (2005-2008), the Pirates compiled a .563 regular-season winning percentage and made two Calder Cup playoff appearances, losing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in both the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons.