Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sabres extend affiliation with Portland, yet Albany still in mix

The drama over the potential of an American Hockey League team relocating to Albany for next season took yet another turn on Thursday.
The Buffalo Sabres announced they have extended their affiliation agreement with the Portland Pirates, and reported, but exactly where the AHL franchise will play next season remains uncertain.
Albany arena management maintains the city, which will lose the Albany River Rats when the franchise moves to Charlotte at the end of this season, remains in the mix of luring the Portland team to the Capital District.
“We’re looking at it as a good thing,” Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber said. “This doesn’t mean that they’re staying in Portland and it doesn’t mean they’re coming here. That decision still hasn’t been made.”
The Pirates franchise, which has been engaged in talks with Belber about the prospect of moving the team to Albany, is currently in the second year of its original deal with the Sabres.
The new extension is a long-term agreement between the two franchises, the websites reported.
“Lyman (Bullard, the Pirates chairman/governor) and I are thrilled to share this great news with our fans, our sponsors and the entire community, who have experienced firsthand, over the past two seasons, the quality and exciting style of Buffalo Sabres hockey at the AHL level at the Cumberland County Civic Center,” Pirates Managing Owner/CEO Brian Petrovek said in a statement. “Greater Portland has embraced a group of world class players, coaches and team staff who have been and continue to be outstanding professionals and people both on and off the ice.
“We’re looking forward to our future together with high hopes and expectations as we continue to do our part to help develop future Buffalo Sabres and compete for Calder Cup championships.”
While based on these comments, the Pirates franchise is apparently staying in Portland, but Belber says not so fast.
“No it’s not,” Belber said about whether the Pirates remaining in Portland is a done deal. “We’re still in negotiations with them and this process still has to be played all the way out.”
Belber confirmed there’s still another NHL team in the Northeast interested in relocating an AHL franchise to Albany. This team is likely either the New Jersey Devils, whose AHL affiliate is in Lowell, Mass., or the New York Rangers (Hartford).
“We do have a team that’s interested on the back burner,” Belber said. “I’m confident we can ultimately get a deal done with a team so we can continue to have pro hockey in Albany.”


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