The date: Wednesday, June 8, 1997.
The headline: The Binghamtonare moving to Hartford, Connecticut.
The end result was a day forever remembered by area fans as one of the darkest eras that brought AHL hockey to an end after 20 consecutive years.
After a seven year marriage with the parent club NY Rangers, which included a record AHL 124-point performance in the 1992-'93 season that still stands today, the Rangers abruptly ended their affiliation with the purchase of the club back from local ownership, and relocated to Hartford, Conn. at the XL Center where they still operate today as the Wolf Pack.
The move prematurely ended their affiliation with Binghamton with several years left between the two clubs in their longevity deal. The following results left a bad taste for the fan-base with sour feelings all around, including myself.
What followed then was a lower caliber of hockey (UHL) that fans were forced to endure for five years, with somewhat slim hopes in the back of their minds that the higher level in the past that they're otherwise accustomed to would return some day soon.
However, that day would come to fruition, as Binghamton was chosen in the waning days over another team in existence in Indianapolis, Indiana back in 2002.
With the thought that some hockey was better than none, it left people scrambling behind the scenes to otherwise bring a team to the ice for the upcoming season with very little time, as there wasn't a back-up plan in place after the surprising announcement that caught many off guard.
The United Hockey League was formed with expansion ideas that grew to the East Coast out of what was formerly known as the Colonial Hockey League, and with a handshake deal, the B.C. Icemen was formed that lasted for five, very long years. Even though there were other NHL markets that were willing to relocate their prospects to Binghamton in time, there was nothing the AHL could do to make it happen with that deal already in place.
In looking back, the Binghamton Rangers, in their seven years of existence from 1990-'97 that boasted four divisional championships, which included that AHL-best record of 57-13-10 for 124 points, were to provide the glory years for hockey in Binghamton.
AHL hockey finally returned to Binghamton with the announcement on May 22, 2002, that featured the Ottawa Senators in a move from the Grand Rapids Griffins after three years, in an attempt for the farm team to be closer to home, four hours away from one of the hockey hotbed cities of upstate New York.
Ottawa reportedly sold its AHL franchise for $2.5 million to a group of four partners, led by former Binghamton Rangers owners Tom Mitchell and Bob Carr that brought the AHL back to the city.
However, things seems to be changing once again.
It all began here with an article by Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun proclaiming the advancement by the Ottawa Senators to make a move bringing their minor league affiliate closer to home in Belleville, Ontario. That was immediately followed up with The City of Belleville and an unknown hockey entity that have signed a Memorandum of Understanding several days after to the Yardmen Arena in Belleville for the 2017-18 campaign.
With the article that stirred up things that perhaps brought up some unnecessary drama that drew attention to the long time cities and their affiliation. Binghamton fans have been concerned about another NHL team taking Ottawa's place if the big club opts out early, but the league has been reassuring.
With new Ottawa Senators' GM Pierre Dorion taking over, there has been some news that Ottawa prefers their prospects to be even closer to home than the current four hour trek from Binghamton as suggested by in that in that article by Bruce Garrioch.
The distance from Binghamton to Ottawa is roughly 260 miles. It would be reduced to 130 miles with a move to Belleville, Ontario, a hour an a half shorter with no border crossing issues. There also have been suggestions of a move to nearby Cornwall that is 76 miles a way, or Gatineau only 18 miles away.
It might not happen for another two or three seasons, so there's still time to line up another NHL affiliate, with the possible theme of blue stripes or red pitchforks being the main focus amongst the leading candidates for a new parent club, according to a few social media rumors that have run rampant lately.
WBNG-12 claimed the BSens aren't going anywhere. Here's the following transcript from that interview: B-Sens officials: 'We're not going anywhere'. From that link, here's a quote from Tom Mitchell, Executive Vice President of Operations for the B-Sens
We are currently talking to the County about extending it another three years, that will take care of the next six years," said Mitchell. "We're in the process of hiring two new employees. We're not going anywhere
Mitchell simply re-assured Binghamton hockey fans in his message that AHL hockey will remain if and when the current agreement is decided, as he negotiates an extension for another three seasons. That's good news for the fans with such a strong market place in Binghamton for the AHL, whether it's the Senators or another team. Mitchell added there are three years left on the current agreement with Ottawa, and he fully expects it to be upheld.
The article also suggested that the B-Sens would possibly leave a year earlier than their contract would end. Broome County Executive said if the team did leave early, the lease for the arena would require another AHL team to come in and take over.
"All I know is that the AHL is committed to being here for not only the three years we have right now but we're working on adding another six," Broome County Executive Debbie Preston (R) said. "The AHL is very, very committed to Broome County, I'm not even, I'm not worried about having an AHL team here, I know we will."
Built-in rivalries surrounding Binghamton includes Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey and Utica, which geographically makes the market attractive here and makes sense. The team currently plays at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in the downtown area, and The Arena is operated and owned by the county.
Ottawa delivered the first, and only Calder Cup Championship during the 2010-'11 season, something that will live on forever in the hearts of many fans in the Southern Tier region of NY. The Rangers may have provided the glory years, but the Sens provided the ultimate prize.
*Cover Pic & Insert Courtesy of @AliciaS20