The Greenville Swamp Rabbits have a new affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers for the 2020-21 season. The team will continue its current affiliation with the defending Calder Cup Champion Charlotte Checkers.
The team said in a news release the affiliation makes good business sense and will help develop personnel.
“In a season already filled with change and transition, we are proud to establish an affiliation with the Florida Panthers,” Andrew Lord, Swamp Rabbits head coach and director of hockey operations, said in the news release. “Having Charlotte close by as our AHL affiliate makes perfect sense geographically. It is one of the closest AHL/ECHL affiliations distance wise in the leagues. Geordie Kinnear is a great coach and Charlotte as an organization won the Calder Cup in 2019, so there are a ton of positives to this affiliation. We are keen to be a great partner and are determined to develop players to the AHL and ultimately onto the NHL.”
The Panthers had a 35-26-8 record last season and played the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup playoffs qualifying round.
“We are pleased to begin our affiliation with the Swamp Rabbits,” Gregory Campbell, Panthers vice president of player personnel and development, said in the release. “This partnership is important to our organization as it provides new resources and exciting opportunities for the development of our young prospects.”
Last May the ECHL Board of Governors voted to accept the purchase of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits by Spire Hockey South, a subsidiary of Spire Hockey owned by Jeff Dickerson, T.J. Puchyr, Tom Long and Chip Ganassi. Spire Hockey South will own a majority stake in the Greenville franchise while former majority owners Doug Heinzer, Mike Panaggio and Bjarne Borg maintain a minority interest in the team, according to a news release in May.
Headquartered just outside Charlotte in Cornelius, N.C., Spire Hockey is a subsidiary of Spire Holdings, a diversified sports and entertainment organization with services that include consulting, representation and property management.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Swamp Rabbits,” Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Derek Wilkinson said in the most recent announcement. We are grateful to the Spire Hockey ownership group and President Todd Mackin for this opportunity. Greenville provides the Florida Panthers and Charlotte Checkers an ideal situation to develop our prospects. This relationship also allows us to continue our collective focus to grow the game of hockey in the Carolinas in the coming years.”
Mackin said in the news release that growing an interest in hockey in the Carolinas and rest of the South is a priority for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and Spire Hockey.
The Greenville Swamp Rabbits are selling tickets for the upcoming season at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, with the home opener scheduled for Dec. 18.