BY: Brittany Burke
It is the goal of any minor league team to provide affordable entertainment and game-day experiences for the fans, while also acting as a platform for athletes to move up within the world of professional sports. The Danbury Whalers, a Level-A hockey club playing in the new Federal Hockey League, is doing just that.
While it is the goal of members of the Greenville Road Warriors ECHL team to make their way to Hartford to be a part of the Connecticut Whale, the AHL Whale prospects are continuously vying for the opportunity to fulfill their childhood dreams by making it to the NHL with one of the Original Six teams, the New York Rangers.
For the Danbury Whalers roster those dreams are no less the ultimate goal. In fact, that longing to make it to the NHL and that path to fulfilling it just got a big boost for the men in white and green.
Herm Sorcher, the president and general manager of The Danbury Whalers, recently announced that the team had reached an agreement to make an affiliation with the East Coast Hockey League’s Elmira Jackals.
The ECHL is a Level AA league and the Jackals are affiliated with both the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators of the NHL as well as the Syracuse Crunch and Binghamton Senators of the AHL. For the players in Danbury, this agreement provides the players greater exposure and room for advancement; two incentives that will give any young player more motivation to push themselves harder and excel on the ice. For Jackals players the affiliation is a reminder to play their best hockey or risk being sent down to the Whalers.
This affiliation agreement is huge news for the Whalers organization. It gives them more credibility and will get them a better pool of athletes to put on the ice.
Last season Whalers players were continually sent up and down from Elmira. Players like Marty Moucha, Andrew Willock, Devin Guy, Leland Fidler and Peter Skoggard all got time on the ice with the Western New York team. The 2011-2012 season looks to be no different.
The Whalers have multiple current and former players in ECHL training camps, including Alec Kirschner and Paul Arnott, while Moucha participated in the Wilkes-Barre Penguins training camp; the AHL affiliate to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Continually having players added and taken away from the lineup could pose some problems for the team, but it is something that it overcame last year and is really a regular part of coaching in any minor league sport. This season head coach Phil Esposito will look to create a team with depth in order to compensate for the gaps when players get called up.
Players are set to report to Danbury on Oct. 20 for the start of training camp with the official puck drop set for Thursday Oct. 27 at the Danbury Ice Arena.