The announcement that everyone has been waiting for has arrived as the local ownership group headed by Tom Mitchell has made it official during a press conference held on Tuesday. The New Jersey Devils will relocate their American Hockey League affiliation from Albany down the I-88 corridor to Binghamton for the start of the 2017-18 season.
The deal is for five years, and the team will be called the Binghamton Devils.
The AHL Board of Governors unanimously approved the move on a vote that took place over the weekend during the annual AHL All-Star event currently held in Allentown, PA.
This will fill the void left as the Ottawa Senators decided to relocate their AHL team to Belleville, Ontario at the end of the current season after spending the last 15 years in Binghamton. The decision was based on not only cutting travel costs, but to bring their prospects closer to home.
According to some officials in Ottawa, the Senators were not only committed to the fans of Binghamton, but the AHL as well, as the league released a statement stating "...AHL has committed to staying in Binghamton and Broome County..." in guaranteeing a replacement team would be lined up in time before the move would come to fruition.
The Binghamton Senators’ inaugural season took place back in 2002-03 after Ottawa decided to leave Grand Rapids, Michigan for closer grounds after the previous two seasons. There are two years remaining in the four-year agreement signed in early September of 2014 which Ottawa decided to break.
The Capital District of NYS in Albany has been the home of the Devils’ AHL affiliate for the past seven years, playing at the Times Union Center. However, the outdated facility, financial reasons, and reportedly poor attendance were key factors in the overall decision to pack up and leave by the parent club.
The news has brought welcome relief to the rabid and enthusiastic fanbase that AHL hockey is alive and well and will remain here in Binghamton. Many rumors can now be put to rest concerning the next team who would be here to support.
The BSens won the Calder Cup in 2011 for the first time in the city’s hockey history, and that will be forever engraved in the hearts of many fans in the Binghamton area. It will remain the pinnacle of the Ottawa-Binghamton relationship.
Binghamton has been the home of the Dusters (1977-80), Whalers (1980-90) and Rangers (1990-97) in the AHL over the better part of the last 40 years. The AHL affiliation was interrupted for five seasons, but there was still pro hockey with the BC IceMen (1997-02) playing in the UHL back then.
The Southern Tier of NY has been a hotbed of sorts for sports enthusiasts with Double-AA baseball representing the New York Mets organization for the past 25 years. Also, the University of Binghamton is lined up to land Division I hockey in the nearby future. In addition, the city was recently rated as the 13th-best minor league sports towns in the country in 2015.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of hockey left to be played as the BSens go for a post-season run one more time with the possibility of making the playoffs for the seventh time in their history. I’ll have my own personal views, along with some fond memories at a later date towards the end of the season.
Go Sens Go!