Tampa Bay Lightning moves its AHL affiliation to Syracuse from Norfolk
There is no way around it. The Tampa Bay Lightning moving its AHL affiliation to Syracuse from Norfolk is more than a bit awkward as Norfolk just finished one of the greatest seasons ever for a North American professional hockey team. But the Lightning wanted its top minor league affiliate to travel less during the season, which, by the way, also will cut down on costs.
So, as Norfolk general manager Julien BriseBois said, "We wish the Admirals fans and the city of Norfolk all the best in the future."
It is believed the Lightning and Syracuse have a three-year deal.
teams haThe move (a terribly kept secret) was announced Thursday, a strange end point to Tampa Bay's five-year deal with Norfolk, which still is celebrating its AHL championship and an epic season in which it won 28 straight games to finish the regular schedule (the most ever by a North American pro hockey team) and went 15-3 in the playoffs. In all, Norfolk won an astounding 43 of its final 46 games.
Whit Bacon, a historian from the Springfield (Mass.) Hockey Heritage Society, has said the season qualifies the 2011-12 Admirals as one of the AHL's greatest teams.
Those players, coaches and organizational personnel still under contract with Norfolk will move to Syracuse. For now that includes coach Jon Cooper, who certainly will be considered for an NHL job. So far, rumored destinations are the Oilers and Capitals, though Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has said he will not comment on whether teams have asked permission to speak to Cooper.
BriseBois had many good things to say about Tampa Bay's affiliation with Norfolk.
"The fan support and (owner) Ken Young and the game experience for our players, all of that was fantastic," he said. "But at the end of the day, moving up from Norfolk, to get on a bus (for a road trip), sleep on a bus and then play three games in three nights, that's too much wear and fatigue which increases the risk of injury and doesn't allow the team to improve."
And, yet, the Admirals flourished.
"We had a special group," BriseBois said.