STOCKTON, Calif. –The Stockton Thunder of the ECHL and New York Islanders of the National Hockey League have reached a one year affiliation agreement for the 2013-14 season, Thunder president Brian Sandy announced today in conjunction with the Islanders.
“Having an NHL affiliate is an important piece of our success, and a dedicated organization like the New York Islanders brings a lot to the table,” said Sandy. “The Thunder is committed to helping our players reach their goals through NHL development, and our new affiliation with the Islanders will help us achieve this objective for them in a much bigger way. And, our fans can look forward to watching talented Islanders prospects in the Central Valley, who will all play important roles in our commitment to excellence, both on the ice and in our community.”
“We are thrilled to have the Stockton Thunder join the Islanders as the organization’s ECHL affiliate,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. “The culture of success in Stockton will benefit our prospects and develop them into better hockey players as they work their way from the ECHL, to the AHL and eventually playing for the New York Islanders.”
Stockton will serve as the minor league affiliate for Islanders prospects at the premier ‘AA’ hockey league level, which includes a partnership with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. New York most recently partnered with the Kalamazoo Wings (2010-11) and Utah Grizzlies (2007-10) at the ECHL level with Andrew MacDonald, Micheal Haley, Trevor Smith, Nathan Lawson, Mikko Koskinen and Joel Rechlicz advancing to play for the Islanders after appearing in the ECHL during that time.
“It’s a great day in landing a tremendous organization like the New York Islanders as a valued NHL affiliate,” said Rich Kromm, Thunder head coach and director of hockey operations. “Coming off a great season, they’ve gained a reputation in the hockey world as a promising organization that values development of young talent. Having played for them brings an exciting familiarity on my end and we’re thrilled to begin helping develop their prospects.”
“The Islanders are building from within and their program is having success which makes us excited to call them our new partner,” said Thunder owner Brad Rowbotham. “It is important for us to follow that pattern as an organization, providing a great environment for their talented prospects in Stockton while giving all Thunder players a tremendous opportunity to advance their careers. Brian and Coach Kromm bring a lot of credibility to this agreement with their extensive experience at many levels and their involvement played a role in making this happen.”
The Islanders are a member of the NHL’s Eastern Conference and have won four Stanley Cup championships, capturing four consecutive titles from 1980-83. During a period of five seasons from 1980-84, the Islanders advanced to the Stanley Cup Final each year and won 19 consecutive playoff rounds – currently an NHL record. New York has sent eight former members to the Hockey Hall of Fame, including Al Arbour, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bill Torrey, Bryan Trottier and Pat LaFontaine.
Current head coach Jack Capuano (Tallahassee, Knoxville and Pee Dee) and assistant coach Brent Thompson (Alaska) have ECHL coaching experience and helped guide the Islanders to a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
Kromm, who skated for Arbour during parts of five seasons with New York, was originally selected by the Islanders in the second round (37th overall) of the 1982 NHL Entry Draft.
The Thunder previously had an NHL affiliation with the Edmonton Oilers (2006-13), San Jose Sharks (2010-12) and Phoenix Coyotes (2005-06), helping send nine former players to the NHL level. Mark Arcobello was the most recent former Thunder player to skate in the NHL, making his debut with Edmonton on Feb. 5, 2013 vs. Dallas.
Former Thunder right wing Colin McDonald, who suited up with the team in 2008-09, had 17 points (7g-10a) in 45 games and also posted two goals and an assist in six playoff games with the Islanders last season.
The Thunder will open the 2013-14 season at Stockton Arena as defending Western Conference champions on Saturday, Oct. 19 against the Colorado Eagles at 7:30 p.m.
PRESEASON SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED: Two Thunder preseason games for the 2013-14 season were announced with Stockton Arena hosting the Thunder and Bakersfield Condors at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11. The Thunder will wrap up the preseason schedule on Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Cow Palace against the host San Francisco Bulls at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information for the Oct. 11 preseason game at Stockton Arena will be announced soon.