The Florida Panthers have not only adopted the Charlotte Checkers as their new AHL affiliate, but will bring along the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL as well. Greenville previously was affiliated with the Carolina Hurricanes but will stay joined with the Checkers as they move to a new NHL partnership. Swamp Rabbits head coach and director of hockey operations Andrew Lord released a statement on the new affiliation:
"In a season already filled with change and transition, we are proud to establish an affiliation with the Florida Panthers. Having Charlotte close by as our AHL affiliate makes perfect sense geographically, it is one of the closest AHL/ECHL affiliation distance wise in the leagues. Geordie Kinnear is a great coach and Charlotte as an organization won the Calder Cup in 2019, so there are a ton of positives to this affiliation. We are keen to be a great partner and are determined to develop players to the AHL and ultimately onto the NHL."
As Lord makes clear, the connection to the Checkers is the important part here for Greenville, which is just down the road from Charlotte. The two organizations can use the short distance to their benefit with player transactions, something that may be even more important in a year like this one.
Greenville is one of 13 ECHL teams still scheduled to open its season in mid-December, with a game against the South Carolina Stingrays kicking things off on Dec. 11. The league recently lost an entire division of teams that opted to suspend operations due to COVID-19 situations but is trying to push on with a reduced schedule.