The Calgary Flames and Calgary Wranglers have a new partner in the organization’s developmental system. The Rapid City Rush have been announced as the Flames’ (and Wranglers’) new ECHL affiliate.
The Rush replace the Kansas City Mavericks, who announced a new partnership with the Seattle Kraken last month.
(In a bit of a fun quirk, former Calgary Hitmen captain Kenton Helgeson and his brother Tyson play for Rapid City.)
Located in Rapid City, South Dakota, the Rush were founded in 2008 in the Central Hockey League and joined the ECHL in 2014. The new affiliation means, for the first time, the Flames’ NHL, AHL and ECHL clubs are all located in the same time zone. This will likely lead to more integration of the Rush into the development pipeline, as recalling players to the AHL (or getting development staff down to rapid city) now merely involves a flight to or from Denver or Minneapolis, then a short flight to Rapid City.
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With Kansas City so geographically distant from Calgary and Stockton in recent years, typically the Flames have only really used their ECHL affiliate to give their youngest goaltenders extra reps in net. Under the CBA, players on entry-level deals can be send to the ECHL without restrictions, but the Flames haven’t really used the option much in recent years. Players on ELCs that spent time with the Mavericks included Mason McDonald (2017-19), Tyler Parsons (2017-18, 2019-20), Hunter Smith (2017-18) and Nick Schneider (2018-20). The pandemic obvious complicated things, but the Flames sent zero players on NHL deals to Kansas City over the final two seasons of their affiliation.
The Flames have had an ECHL affiliate continuously since 1996, with affiliate agreements with the Roanoke Express (1996-98), Johnstown Chiefs (1998-2003), Las Vegas Wranglers (2003-09), Utah Grizzlies (2009-13), Alaska Aces (2013-14), Colorado Eagles (2014-15), Adirondack Thunder (2015-17) and Mavericks (2017-22).
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