It is now official: The Florida Panthers are moving their AHL team to North Carolina and will be partners with the Charlotte Checkers.
Both teams had been looking for a new relationship after the Panthers lost their affiliation with the Springfield Thunderbirds earlier this spring.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable place for players to grow up both as players and as people. Charlotte is a wonderful city,’’ Florida assistant GM and Charlotte GM Eric Joyce said Thursday afternoon.
”We expect to develop them to the best of their abilities and have them play for the Florida Panthers at some point in the future in the National Hockey League. We’re very fortunate to have this come together.’’
The Checkers had been affiliated with their neighboring Carolina Hurricanes for the past decade but the Hurricanes are apparently moving their team to Chicago leaving Charlotte open — and the Panthers looking as well.
This will be the second time the Panthers have held an AHL affiliation in North Carolina as they were with the Greensboro-based Carolina Monarchs from 1995-97.
“It’s an exciting day for the Panthers and Checkers organizations,” new Florida GM Bill Zito said in a statement released by the team.
“Building success and establishing a strong culture at the American Hockey League level is vital to the development of our young players.
Thankful for the past. Ready for the future. pic.twitter.com/0RYoioJtzx
— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) September 10, 2020
“The Checkers have built a winning culture, culminating in a 2019 Calder Cup Championship. We feel that with this affiliation, our prospects will be in the right environment to grow and develop into National Hockey League players.”
The Panthers will move their entire AHL operation to Charlotte if the AHL does hold a 2020-21 season.
Geordie Kinnear has been the coach of the Florida AHL team since the 2016-17 season after a long stint with the Hurricanes’ organization — including as an assistant coach for the Checkers.
Kinnear, who worked on the NHL staff during the summer reboot after Mike Kitchen opted out, will return as coach of the Panthers’ AHL team.
Joyce said the rest of the coaching staff would be decided moving forward. Leo Luongo, the team’s goaltending coach who is the younger brother of Roberto, is expected to return.
One player who will not be joining the Checkers this season is top prospect Spencer Knight.
The goalie, who was Florida’s first round pick in 2019, is returning to Boston College for his sophomore season.
According to the Checkers, the team will continue to play at the renovated Bojangles’ Coliseum and will keep its Carolina colors of red and black and will keep their logo as well.
The Checkers said keeping their local identity was important — as it was to the Panthers.
The AHL hopes to begin its new season on Dec. 4.
FLORIDA PANTHERS AHL HISTORY
Cincinnati Cyclones (1993-95 – IHL)
Carolina Monarchs (1995-97)
New Haven Beast (1997-99)
Kentucky Thoroughblades (1998-99)
Louisville Panthers (1999-2001)
San Antonio Rampage (2002-05)
Rochester Americans (2005-11)
San Antonio Rampage (2011-15)
Portland Pirates (2015-16)
Springfield Thunderbirds (2016-20)
Charlotte Checkers (2020-present)