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River Rats announce new affiliation, lease

The Albany River Rats announced today that an affiliation agreement has been reached with the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes to house the club’s top prospects for the 2006-07 season.

The agreement, which includes two mutual one-year optional extensions, was announced at a joint press conference held at Pepsi Arena.

“We are very excited to begin this relationship,” said River Rats President/CEO S. Garen Szablewski. “Our organization is proud to be associated with one of the premier franchises in the NHL. We look forward to working with the Carolina Hurricanes organization to provide a winning environment for the players and continue the tradition of Albany River Rats hockey.

The River Rats will serve as the Hurricanes’ top minor-league affiliate for the 2006-07 season, and both teams have options to extend the affiliation through the 2008-09 season. The Hurricanes are responsible for providing the River Rats’ full roster but can partner with another NHL franchise to fulfill that obligation.

Carolina also announced that the organization’s top AHL prospects will continue to play under the guidance of head coach and general manager Tom Rowe.

“We are excited to partner with an established AHL franchise in the River Rats,” said Jason Karmanos, vice president and assistant GM of the Hurricanes. “The city of Albany and the River Rats’ facilities will give players in the Hurricanes system a great place to play and improve their games.”

The River Rats also announced the extension of their lease agreement with Pepsi Arena through at least the 2006-07 American Hockey League season.

The River Rats have been a consistent draw since their inaugural 1993-94 campaign, attracting over 2.3 million fans to Pepsi Arena. The club has also been voted Best Local Sports Team by fans in the Albany Times Union and Metroland polls, as well as ranking among professional hockey’s elite with the “Rowdy” The Rat logo.

Pepsi Arena is in its 15th year as “Upstate New York’s Premier Sports and Entertainment Facility.” Owned by Albany County and operated by SMG, the world’s largest private management firm for public assembly facilities, the Pepsi Arena has an adaptable seating capacity between 6,000 and 17,500. Since Frank Sinatra christened the building on Jan. 30, 1990, more than 10 million patrons have walked through the turnstiles.