06/16/2016 9:20 AM
Photo by Fritz Stillings
Article By: Bob Mills
Rockford, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Blackhawks have signed an agreement extending their NHL/AHL affiliation through the 2021-22 season. The five-year extension takes effect starting in 2017-18.
The IceHogs and Blackhawks began their affiliation in 2007-08, Rockford’s first season in the American Hockey League. Over the previous nine campaigns, 67 players have dressed for both the IceHogs and the Blackhawks.
“Our partnership with the city of Rockford and the IceHogs has been excellent since our relationship started in 2007,” said Blackhawks Senior Vice President, Hockey Operations Al MacIsaac. “The combination of the great staff and Rockford’s proximity to Chicago make it only natural that we extend this agreement. We are looking forward to many more years of working together.”
“The Chicago Blackhawks organization is very proud of the relationship we have with city of Rockford and the growth of our fan base at the BMO Harris Bank Center over the last nine seasons,” said Blackhawks Director of Hockey Administration/General Manager of Minor League Affiliations Mark Bernard. “The community of Rockford has shown a tremendous amount of support to our young prospects and has helped make the start of their professional careers that much more special.”
Rockford has been a key developmental step for a number of impact players in Chicago. Last season, 22 different past and current IceHogs players appeared in a game with the Blackhawks. Those players include Kyle Baun, Bryan Bickell, Corey Crawford, Phillip Danault, Scott Darling, Marko Dano, Erik Gustafsson, Ryan Hartman, Vince Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Tanner Kero, Marcus Kruger, Michael Leighton, Brandon Mashinter, Mark McNeill, Dennis Rasmussen, David Rundblad, Rob Scuderi, Andrew Shaw, Viktor Svedberg, Teuvo Teravainen and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
In the last seven seasons, 22 players have gone on to win the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks after playing in Rockford, and eight have their name engraved on Hockey’s most-storied hardware multiple times. Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Corey Crawford, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, and Kris Versteeg all have won two Stanley Cups with Chicago, while Niklas Hjalmarsson has captured the Cup on three separate occasions.
The IceHogs have seen success on the BMO Harris Bank Center ice as well, securing a winning record in each of the team’s nine AHL seasons. Overall during that span, the IceHogs are 364-263-35-38, good for a .572 winning percentage. As the primary developmental affiliate of the Blackhawks, IceHogs fans have seen 65 Chicago draft picks take the ice, including eight first-round selections. The 2015-16 season saw three first round picks play in at least one game; those players include Phillip Danault (#26, 2011), Ryan Hartman (#30, 2013), and Mark McNeill (#18, 2011).
Attendance at the BMO Harris Bank Center has continued to increase during the affiliation between the two clubs. The IceHogs set new attendance records in 2015-16 with 190,492 total fans and an average of 5,013 fans per game. Since joining the AHL and affiliating with Chicago in 2007-08, attendance at IceHogs games has grown by 23 percent.
“The City Council working with the [then] MetroCentre Board made a bold move in 2007 when we financed the purchase of the AHL IceHogs franchise and proudly entered into our affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks. There was a lot of controversy at the time, but the vision and courage then has paid off big time for our community and the Blackhawks," stated Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey.
"Bringing the Blackhawks farm team to Rockford, recomposing the RAVE board, and hiring SMG have been vital parts of the rebirth of the BMO Harris Bank Center and our downtown. We are proud to have contributed to this community legacy,” Morrissey added.
“The partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Rockford IceHogs has far exceeded any expectations,” said Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen. “The fact that a majority of Blackhawks players have spent time in Rockford and the Blackhawks have recently won three Stanley Cup Championships is a real testimony to the success of this venture. We are especially grateful to the entire Blackhawks organization, RAVE Board, SMG Management and Staff, City of Rockford, and to all Rockford IceHogs loyal fans. GO HAWKS!”
Season Tickets for 2016-17 on Sale Now: Don’t miss a moment of the action by reserving your seats for the IceHogs 18th season of professional hockey and 10th as the top AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Please contact us at (815) 847-6399 or by visiting icehogs.com to claim your spots for this upcoming season.