It’s an eight year deal with the City of Belleville, which is renovating the Yardmen Arena to meet the needs of AHL level hockey. The team will fill the gap left by the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, after leaving in 2015. As part of the move, Eugene Melnyk is buying the AHL franchise from it’s current local Binghamton ownership. This has been a trend that has been growing lately, with a little over half of the league owning their AHL affiliates.
The move brings the team’s prospects closer to home, allowing for faster call-ups and greater access by the coaching and management staff. It also puts the AHL team juuuust inside the Sens NHL broadcast region, in shared territory. For Sens fans in the Belleville area, they’ve already started the season tickets drive at www.bellevillesens.com.
As far as hockey in Binghamton goes, the current ownership released the following statement:
Sounds like they’re working hard on making sure another AHL club comes in to Binghamton right away, and may even have one already in the works. It’s not entirely clear who it will be, though. The Rangers have been examining other options for some time now, extending their current agreement for only one year through this season. The Islanders have been expected to move their team, but to a renovated Nassau Coliseum. Vegas needs an AHL team at some point, but they’re expected to want one somewhere out west and may share an affiliation at first. The Devils have been considered a possibility, though they extended their lease in Albany through 18-19. From what I can find Detroit’s affiliation deal with Grand Rapids is up after 16-17, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for them to move their team to a location that is almost four times the drive.
No matter how things happen, hopefully the fans in Bingo will still get to watch AHL hockey in their city next season.