GREENVILLE, S.C. — The Greenville Swamp Rabbits are proud to announce an agreement to enter an affiliation with the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Swamp Rabbits will serve as the development destination for the Hurricanes' prospects as they look to rise through the ranks to the NHL level by being part of North America's premier double-A hockey league, the ECHL.
After going one year as an independent club during the 2018–19 season, the Swamp Rabbits have forged the Carolina Hockey Alliance by becoming a connected presence to grow the game of hockey throughout the Carolinas starting with the 2019–20 season and beyond. This announcement kicks off the organization's 10th Anniversary season by creating a local conglomeration of hockey development in the Carolinas.
"This a landmark day for our franchise. A year ago, we set out on a goal to find a regional NHL partner to build a relationship with who is committed to development at the AHL and the ECHL level," said Swamp Rabbits President and CEO Steve Donner. "In partnering with the Hurricanes, we have found that partner for player development with a huge added bonus of marketing synergy in the Carolinas."
"After the dust settles on the hockey side, we look forward to both of our marketing departments collaborating on developing hockey interest in the region."
"We are excited to begin a new ECHL partnership with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits," said Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell. "The affiliation makes competitive and geographic sense for us, and we look forward to working with Greenville to develop our prospects."
The Hurricanes organization completed an incredible season up and down the organizational depth chart. The 'Canes completed their first season with head coach and franchise legend Rod Brind'Amour behind the bench. He led them to a 46-29-7 record, their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009, and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final after dispatching the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, and the upstart New York Islanders.
The Hurricanes also made international headlines with the implementation of the Storm Surge postgame celebrations, which garnered them the "Bunch of Jerks" moniker that fueled their prominent swagger deep into the playoff dance. Raleigh, North Carolina has re-established itself as a booming hockey hotbed.
The Charlotte Checkers, Carolina's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate since 2010, finished an incredible season as the top team in the league. A record of 51-17-8 (110 points), and a dominant playoff performance, allowed them to capture the Calder Cup championship in five games over the Chicago Wolves for the first time in their AHL history.
Further cementing the Hurricanes' attention to detail in prospect development, many players that were under contract with the Hurricanes with the Florida Everblades (ECHL) led them to a South Division title, and a berth in the Eastern Conference Final of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
"This partnership with the Hurricanes is a great opportunity for both organizations to grow together. We're looking forward to building on the Hurricanes' success," said head coach and director of hockey operations Kevin Kerr. "Last year was a rebuilding year for our organization. This affiliation with Carolina is the perfect next step and a key piece towards becoming a top team in the South Division, and the ECHL."
The Carolina Hurricanes set foot in Raleigh in 1997, and have made their way to two Stanley Cup Final series as Eastern Conference champions. They won the Stanley Cup in 2006 in a thrilling seven-game series over the Edmonton Oilers. Led by Brind'Amour, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner and rookie goalie Cam Ward, the 'Canes were at the top of the hockey world for the first time in franchise history.
Under the direction of owner Tom Dundon and Waddell as GM, the Hurricanes are one of the NHL's meteorically rising clubs set for a long run of success.
A press conference to introduce Hurricanes officials, which will be open to the media, to corporate sponsors, and to the public, will be held at a later date.