The Chicago Wolves announced Thursday that the American Hockey League organization has signed a three-year partnership agreement with the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes that begins with the 2020-21 season.
This affiliation renews the relationship between Wolves chairman Don Levin and Hurricanes president/general manager Don Waddell, who have a history of building championship teams together and separately.
Levin and Waddell initially joined forces in 2001 when Waddell served as the Atlanta Thrashers’ general manager. During their 10-season affiliation, the Wolves captured two of their four league championships (the 2002 and 2008 Calder Cups) and developed 47 players who made their NHL debut with Atlanta. In addition to winning two crowns with the Wolves, Waddell has presided over the Orlando Solar Bears’ 2001 Turner Cup title (IHL) and the Charlotte Checkers’ 2019 Calder Cup championship (AHL).
“We want to continue the relationship we had,” Levin said. “I don’t want to change anything. We had great communication and we like helping each other succeed. NHL general managers want to win championships with their players that are being developed by their AHL affiliate. That’s exactly what we want to do.”
“We are proud to be affiliated with such a historically and financially successful American Hockey League franchise,” Waddell said. “I’m confident our prospects will receive first-class treatment in Chicago, while continuing to be guided by coaches, management and trainers who work closely with the parent club in Raleigh.”
The Wolves are linking with one of the NHL’s fast-rising franchises. The Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2019, then swept the New York Rangers in the preliminary round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs before falling to the Boston Bruins.
“It’s a great organization,” said Wolves general manager Wendell Young. “Our relationship with Don Waddell over the years has been terrific and he leads an all-encompassing organization. They care about their AHL affiliate and they’ve done a great job of drafting and building through trades. We’re excited about the prospects coming here and accompanying them with quality veterans. We’re looking forward to putting a great team on the ice.”
The Hurricanes’ organization features a deep pool of prospects that will populate much of the Wolves’ roster for the 2020-21 season. Earlier this month, TheHockeyWriters.com declared Carolina boasts the NHL’s second-best farm system. On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked Carolina No. 6 among the NHL’s 31 teams in terms of young prospects.
Among those prospects is Chicago-born defenseman Joey Keane, who joined Charlotte at the trade deadline. He earned a spot on the AHL’s 2019-20 All-Rookie team after producing nine goals and 28 assists in 58 games. The 21-year-old Homer Glen resident is a candidate to play for the Wolves this season.
The Hurricanes spent the last 10 seasons affiliated with the Charlotte Checkers, a stretch highlighted by the 2019 Calder Cup championship following a five-game Finals series with the Wolves.
Ryan Warsofsky, who served as Charlotte’s assistant coach for that squad before ascending to the head-coaching role for the 2019-20 season, joins the Wolves as head coach. The 32-year-old North Marshfield, Massachusetts, native led the Checkers to a 34-22-5-0 record (.598) this season and ranks as the AHL’s youngest head coach.
Warsofsky replaces Rocky Thompson, who reportedly will join the NHL’s San Jose Sharks as an assistant coach. Thompson posted a 113-71-18-11 record (.599) while winning two Central Division crowns and one Western Conference title in three seasons with the Wolves.
Both of Warsofsky’s assistants — Patrick Dwyer and Bob Nardella — excelled in a Wolves uniform.
The 37-year-old Dwyer, who made his professional coaching debut last season as a Charlotte assistant, joins Warsofsky in the move to Chicago. Drafted by Atlanta in 2002, Dwyer made his AHL debut with the Wolves in 2005-06 and posted 16 goals and 29 assists in 73 games. The Spokane, Washington, native went on to play seven seasons for Carolina and contributed 42 goals and 51 assists in 416 NHL games from 2008-15.
Nardella, who served as a Wolves assistant the last three seasons alongside Thompson and assistant Chris Dennis, maintains his role on the coaching staff. Nardella and Dwyer were teammates on the 2005-06 squad as Nardella wrapped up his 14-year professional career that featured three championships with the Wolves (1998, 2000, 2002) and two appearances on Italy’s Olympic team (1998, 2006).
The Wolves are planning for the 2020-21 American Hockey League season to begin Friday, Dec. 4. To set up a season-ticket plan or arrange a group outing at Allstate Arena, call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.