Walleye, Blackhawks to end affiliationWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
At the end of this season, the Toledo Walleye will no longer be affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team announced April 1.
A new ECHL team, the Indianapolis Fuel, will become the ECHL affiliate of the Blackhawks. The Fuel will begin play in October.
The Walleye will continue to serve as the primary ECHL affiliate for the Detroit Red Wings. Toledo has shared affiliation with the Red Wings and the Blackhawks since its inaugural season in 2009.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed our relationship these past five years with the Blackhawks,” Walleye President and General Manager Joe Napoli said in a news release. “With Indianapolis joining the ECHL next season, their proximity to Chicago is an obvious affiliation fit. Additionally, an affiliation between Chicago and Indianapolis will further strengthen the ECHL as well.”
Mark Bernard, Blackhawks director of hockey administration and general manager of minor league affiliations, thanked Napoli, longtime Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci, the Walleye organization and Toledo fans for a successful affiliation over the past five seasons.
“We appreciate everything the Walleye did to provide so many of our players such a great setting to learn the professional game in,” Bernard said in the release.
ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna said he understood the decision.
“We certainly understand the decision that has been made by Toledo and Chicago,” McKenna said in the release. “The Blackhawks have been great partners for our League, and we look forward to them continuing an affiliation in the ECHL for years to come.”
Napoli had hinted of a possible change in affiliations during a Feb. 25 news conference announcing Vitucci would step down as head coach. He and Vitucci both said having a double affiliation and geographic proximity to both teams was stressful at times with the number of player call-ups, but both declined to comment further at the time.
“We’re not prepared to make comments on that today because that hasn’t been fully fleshed out,” Napoli said at the time.
Dan Watson, who was assistant coach under Vitucci, took over as head coach. Vitucci will remain with the team, in a position yet to be clarified.