Lightning AHL Affiliation Moving to Orlando?
Here's a simply intriguing story wedged in the middle of Erik Erlendsson's Lightning Notebook in the Trib today. As reported earlier this week, Bruce Landon is heading to Tampa in December to attempt to hammer out an affiliation with the Lightning through 2010. On the face of it, it seems like a natural fit.
However, Erlendsson notes the (worthless, bottom feeding) Florida Panthers have been making noise about moving into a full affiliation in Orlando, former home of the IHL's Solar Bears. The Panthers currently share an affiliation with the Buffalo Sabres' affiliate in Rochester. Jay Feaster cannot allow the Panthers to set up shop in Central Florida thereby cutting into the Lightning's territorial base. So events may conspire that could see the Lightning set up AHL shop in Orlando.
Certainly, that situation would be a boon for Central Florida based fans of the team interested in seeing their young prospects develop. An AHL affiliate within driving distance would be fantastic for the Lightning fan base. On the other hand, one of the reasons that the Lightning and other clubs have balked at putting a team back in Orlando is the increased team travel costs. The AHL is primarily a Northeastern league, and distance is a disadvantage for the Orlando market. And, unfortunately, a decision to move to Orlando would hurt a Springfield market that has already had more than its fair share of being kicked while down.
The Lightning's contract with Springfield expires after this year, so we should see the resolution of this situation very soon.