Rockford, Ill.-The Chicago Blackhawks announced today the team has signed an affiliation agreement with the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL, the leading professional development league for the American Hockey League and National Hockey League. Chicago’s previous ECHL agreement with the Fresno Falcons ended when the team ceased operations on Dec. 22.
The Gladiators have played in the ECHL since 2003, racking up a .642 regular-season winning percentage (228-121-27) while reaching the playoffs in all five years heading into the 2008-09 campaign. The team started play in the ECHL as the Mobile Mystics from 1995 to 2002 before moving to Gwinnett. Jeff Pyle has served as the head coach and director of hockey operations for the team for the last 10 years, which includes each of the six seasons the squad has competed in Gwinnett. Pyle has guided his clubs to the postseason nine times, which includes helping the Gladiators reach the Kelly Cup Finals in 2006.
“We are proud to announce this agreement with the Gladiators, who are such an established organization,” Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon said. “Jeff Pyle has a proven record of developing young players in what is a very successful environment.”
The club is owned and operated by Gwinnett Country Hockey, LLC, which includes Majority Owner, Chairman and Alternate Governor Toby Jeffreys and partners Gary Adams, Jay Gilbertson, Dan Hauck, Gary Hays, Jim Pinard and Tom Sapitowicz. Steve Chapman, a two-time ECHL Executive of the Year (2005 and 2006), serves as the president and general manager of the Gladiators as well as a partner on the ownership team.
“We are thrilled to be establishing a new ECHL affiliation with the Gwinnett Gladiators. They have long been a very solid organization with a great ownership group and a fantastic coach in Jeff Pyle.,” said Blackhawks General Manager of Minor League Affiliates Mark Bernard We know that Jeff will do a terrific job in the progression of our young Chicago Blackhawks prospects that we send to their organization.
We would also like to wish the coaching staff and players from the Fresno Falcons organization nothing but the best in their future endeavors. Head Coach Matt Thomas along with his assistant Ryan Mougenal were great teachers for our young players and the Blackhawks appreciate all of the hard work and effort they have made with our prospects.
This season also marks the second year of the Chicago’s AHL affiliation with the Rockford IceHogs. Last season, the Blackhawks recalled 18 players from Rockford for NHL action.
Four players under contract with the Blackhawks and Rockford that were in Fresno were reassigned to the Gladiators including Adam Berti, Adam Hobson, J.C. Sawyer and Brennan Turner. Goaltender Joe Fallon was reassigned to Gwinnett on Friday.