In only their fifth-year of existence, the Jacksonville Icemen have made perhaps their biggest splash to date. After spending four years as the ECHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets, the Icemen announced Tuesday that they have agreed to a multi-year agreement to be the ECHL affiliate of the four-time, Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon at the JAX Chamber.
“We are excited to partner with one of the NHL’s most iconic franchises as we continue to move forward to bringing the Kelly Cup to Jacksonville,” said Icemen CEO Andy Kaufmann. “We are confident the New York Rangers and the Hartford Wolf Pack will be great partners.”
Kaufmann credited the Icemen fans -- who ranked third in attendance during the 2020-2021 season, despite the COVID-19 pandemic -- as a key factor in the Rangers' decision. Additionally, because of their emphasis on player development, the Rangers were seeking an ECHL affiliate with a separate practice facility. The Icemen announced in April their acquisition and plans to renovate the Jacksonville Ice & Sports Complex into the Icemen Igloo. In addition to a complete renovation of the facility, the team will add a second sheet of ice, a restaurant and bar, an e-sports center and more. Additionally, the team has purchased new construction for player dedicated housing.
The Icemen and the City of Jacksonville will host the 2022 Warrior ECHL All-Star Classic in January, too.
“The New York Rangers are excited to begin our partnership with the Jacksonville Icemen,” said Chris Drury, Rangers President and General Manager. “We are eager to begin this next chapter of professional hockey in our organization, and we look forward to developing future Rangers players in Jacksonville.”
In addition to the Rangers, the Icemen will now partner with the Rangers' AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Players progress from ECHL to AHL to NHL in the professional hockey system. The Icemen / Jets' AHL affiliate is the Manitoba Moose.
“Since coming to our community in 2017, the Jacksonville Icemen have been amazing partners both on and off the ice,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “Not only has this team brought exciting, family-friendly action to the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena and Downtown Jacksonville, but they are also investing in our community with the Icemen Igloo development. I look forward to even greater growth and a brighter future for the team in the years ahead in this new partnership with the New York Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack that will bring exciting new hockey talent to the First Coast.”
The New York Rangers were founded in 1926 and are one of the Original Six teams that competed in the NHL before the 1967 expansion. The team has won four Stanley Cup championships and compete their home games at the storied Madison Square Garden. The Hartford Wolf Pack AHL franchise was initially founded in 1926 as the Providence Reds. After a series of relocations, the franchise moved to Hartford in the 1997. The team won a Calder Cup title during the 1999-2000 season.