The Wheeling Nailers organization has announced that they will enter a minor league player agreement with the Montreal Canadiens and the Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL) for the upcoming 2010-11 season.
The Candiens minor league track record is as impressive as their parent NHL club. Montreal's ECHL affiliate has won the Kelly Cup Championship in two of the past three seasons; including last years champion the Cincinnati Cyclones.
"The Montreal Canadiens have a great history with their ECHL affiliates including 3 league championships," said Nailers Vice President of Business Operations Craig Bommer. "This affiliation will give the Nailers a great chance at accomplishing our goal of bringing a ECHL Championship to the fans of Wheeling."The Wheeling organization aren't strangers to the Montreal Canadiens. The Winston-Salem/Wheeling Thunderbirds had an nine year relationship with the Montreal Canadiens producing three Riley Cup finals appearances in 1989, 1990, and 1993 along with three Henry Brabham Cups for most regular season points in 1990, 1993, and 1995 and one ECHL championship in 1989.
For those wondering, the new partnership with the Canadiens doesn't effect the Nailers affiliation with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Nailers are still an affiliate of the Penguins, but lately many ECHL clubs use dual affiliates. The overall talent on the Nailers club will be better and it helps a great deal with in-season call ups.
"Many teams are starting to get dual affiliation to help with call-ups and Wheeling now has a great second affiliate," added Bommer.The Nailers aren't the only ones excited about the new partnership. Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier is also excited about the possibilities.
"On behalf of the Canadiens organization, I would like to thank the Nailers for accepting to affiliate with us," said Gauthier. "We are looking forward to a strong and long lasting relationship."With the season opener less then 50 days away, the Nailers have made great strides off the ice with the announcement of new head coach Stan Drulia and now the affiliation with the Canadiens. Both should lead to good hockey in Wheeling once the season begins.