Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Flyers lock down Royals as ECHL affiliate

Photo courtesy of WFMZ
The move was made official on Wednesday.

The Philadelphia Flyers and the Reading Royals of the ECHL have agreed to an affiliation, with the parent club providing a two-year contract.

Reading had most recently been joined with the Washington Capitals for the last two seasons, but the club let that agreement lapse following the end of last season, in spite of the Caps and Hershey Bears aiding in the Royals' 2013 Kelly Cup championship with an influx of talent including Drew McIntyre, T.J. Syner, Barry Almeida Philipp Grubauer and Riley Gill -- the former netminder who saw time in the NHL this past season and the latter goaltender who stoked the fires of the successful playoff run.

The Royals were unable to defend their crown in 2013-14, bowing out in the first round against Fort Wayne despite winning the three-team Atlantic Division with a 46-22-4 record.

"I’m looking forward to working with the Flyers coaching and scouting staffs," Royals’ Head Coach  Larry Courville said in a statement issued shortly after the announcement was made. “Our goal in Reading has not changed—to put a championship team on the ice."

A long-standing Flyers' affiliation with Trenton, begun in 1999 with the Titans' founding and interrupted by the club's purchase and operation by the Devils from 2007-11, finally went belly up in April of 2013 when the Titans revealed the franchise would fold. The Flyers then transferred their players to the Greenville Road Warriors at the start of last season, only to see that agreement dissolved upon Greenville's request so that it might align itself with the New York Rangers.

“We are pleased to announce an ECHL affiliation agreement with the Reading Royals,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall stated. "We’re excited to be entering a new era for the Flyers with respect to player development and look forward to working closely with them in a winning environment. "The geographic proximity of our minor league affiliations in the Lehigh Valley and Reading will give our coaches and scouting department the best possible platform to monitor, and promote the growth and advancement of our young prospects.”

Hextall has stated publicly that one of his main goals in his new position of power is player development, something which was spotty at best in the Orange and Black's second tenure with Trenton, which struggled financially. The Royals, now one of the longest-tenured ECHL franchises which has remained in one place, offer more stability.

Carsen Chubak and Doug Clarkson did end up spending time last year with Reading after the Greenville debacle.

"A big part of our success is linked to having an affiliate who is committed to stocking their minor professional system with young, talented players and getting these players as much game time as possible in the early phases of their career," added Courville, who spent a brief NHL stint with the Vancouver Canucks. "Of course, I’m sure our fans will enjoy watching the Flyers’ prospects assigned to Reading as they pursue their goal of advancing to the highest level of the game, while helping us achieve our team goal of winning another ECHL championship.”

The Royals are entering their 14th season in the ECHL, the primary Double-A league affiliated with the NHL.

Philadelphia and the Schuylkill Valley have a long history of connection through sports, as the Phillies have operated their Double-A farm club in Reading continuously since 1967. 
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