The Lightning has entered into a three-year agreement to make the Orlando Solar Bears its primary ECHL affiliate starting this season, the teams announced today in a joint news release.
The ECHL is considered the top "AA" hockey league in North America, a tier below the American Hockey League. The Solar Bears have qualified for the Kelly Cup playoffs in four of their six seasons in the ECHL.
"We are extremely happy to welcome the Orlando Solar Bears into the Lightning organization today," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said in the release. "The Solar Bears organization has demonstrated a strong commitment to success that has paid off with numerous playoff appearances. We look forward to being a part of their future accomplishments while also developing our prospects in a world class environment."
Said Alex Martins, CEO of the Orlando Magic, owners of the Solar Bears: "We are incredibly excited for this new partnership affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning is a first-class organization with tremendous values and vision and we feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to be a part of their hockey family."
To help promote the new partnership, the Lightning will play a preseason game at Orlando's Amway Center, home of the Solar Bears, against the Florida Panthers on Sept. 27. Tickets will go on sale Aug. 23 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster.com. Pre-sales will be available to Lightning, Solar Bears and Magic season ticket holders earlier in the week.
The Lightning's most recent ECHL affiliation was with the Adirondack Thunder in 2017-18.