AHL to supplant UHL in Rockford, Illinois

Mar 19, 2007 - 11:33 PM ROCKFORD, Illinois (Ticker) - The AHL approved the sale and relocation of the inactive Cincinnati franchise to Rockford, Illinois on Monday.

The transaction was unanimously approved by the AHL's Board of Governors. The team will be known as the Rockford IceHogs and serve as the top affiliate of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks for the next 10 years.

The IceHogs will enter the league next season and play in Rockford's MetroCentre, which seats 7,000 for hockey and is 60 miles from Chicago. The facility will undergo a $23 million renovation in preparation for its new tenants.

"The city of Rockford and the MetroCentre arena will be an excellent addition to the American Hockey League," AHL president and CEO David Andrews said in a statement.

The new franchise also paid $700,000 for the naming rights and logos from the current Rockford IceHogs, who play in the lower-level United Hockey League and will be vacated for the AHL team.

"This community has embraced IceHogs hockey and I am proud of the franchise that we have built in Rockford," current IceHogs owner Dr. Kris Tumilowicz said in a statement. "Our success, and the fans' commitment to the IceHogs, has lead to this incredible opportunity to move professional hockey in Rockford to the next level."

Chicago's AHL affiliate had been in Norfolk, Virginia since 2000. The proximity of the new AHL club to the NHL club is "a perfect fit," according to Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon.

"Having our AHL affiliation so close to Chicago will give us better access in terms of monitoring the progress of our players as well as recalling players," Tallon said in a statement. "It will also be better for Blackhawk fans who will be able to follow the progress of the team and its players much easier. From a geographic standpoint, Rockford is an ideal location."

The Cincinnati franchise, owned by Gardens Hockey, Inc., was dropped as the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks in 2005.

Known as the RailRaiders, the club was unable to sell 2,000 season tickets for the 2006-07 season and was granted a voluntary suspension by the AHL while it pursued other options.

There are 29 teams active for the 2007-08 AHL season. Next season, the league also will be welcoming the Lake Erie Monsters, who will play at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland as the top affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

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