(RAPID CITY, SD) – The Rapid City Rush organization is proud to announce an agreement to serve as the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes for a two-year term. The affiliation is the third time in the team’s previous five ECHL seasons that it will serve as a developmental affiliate for an NHL franchise, as the second time in partnership with the Coyotes organization.
A press conference to formalize this announcement will take place next Monday, July 29th, at 3:30 p.m. MST at ice level of Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena, with all public invited to attend. Immediately following the press conference, there will be a reception held in the Club Level.
“We are extremely excited to announce our affiliation today with the Arizona Coyotes organization,” said Rush Owner Jeff Dickerson of Spire Sports + Entertainment. “When we first set out in this process, we weren’t just looking for an affiliate for the sake of an affiliation. We wanted to work with an organization that we shared common goals with, could grow with, and that gave opportunities for advancement of our players and staff. From the moment we met with Steve Sullivan, we knew this was the place for us, and we look forward to playing a part in the success of our partners in Tucson and Phoenix.”
The Rush and Coyotes will be affiliate partners for a second time starting with the 2019-20 ECHL season after previously entering an affiliation for two seasons from 2015-2017. As the primary ECHL development team for the Coyotes, the Rush developed four players that played in Rapid City and advanced to the highest echelon in the NHL, with all playing for the Coyotes. Goaltender Marek Langhamer was the first player in Rush history to not only receive an NHL call-up, but later play in an NHL game, followed by goaltender Adin Hill, who became the first Rush player ever to start and eventually win an NHL game in net. Defenseman Dakota Mermis became the first Rush skater to debut in an NHL game, and served last season as the Captain of the Coyotes AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners. Forward Michael Bunting followed as the most recent former Rush player to make his NHL debut, and had one that he’d never forget: he also scored his first career NHL goal that same night. “We are thrilled to engage in this affiliation partnership with the Arizona Coyotes. From the time we began this process, we were immediately welcomed into the Coyotes family, and felt a synergy between the organizations at all three levels of hockey,” Rush President Todd Mackin remarked on the affiliation. “To echo Jeff Dickerson’s sentiments, we didn’t just affiliate to affiliate. It had to make sense for all parties involved. Each organization is trending in the right direction, with positive momentum pushing the Coyotes, Roadrunners, and the Rush in a welcomed upward trend. We look forward to a long term relationship where we help develop NHL talent at the ECHL level.” “We are excited to once again partner with the Rapid City Rush as our ECHL affiliate,” said Coyotes Assistant General Manager Steve Sullivan. “The Rush are a first class organization with a passionate fan base. We look forward to working with owners Jeff Dickerson and TJ Puchyr (Spire Sports + Entertainment) as well as local owner Scott Mueller and Head Coach Daniel Tetrault.”
Beginning operation in 1972 in the WHA, the Coyotes were the original incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. The then-Jets joined the NHL just 7 years later as part of the NHL/WHA merger, and remained a part of the league in Manitoba until 1996, when the team moved to Phoenix, AZ to become the Phoenix Coyotes. Since moving to Arizona more than 20 years ago, the Coyotes have enjoyed 8 playoff appearances as a franchise, including their first ever Pacific Division Championship in the 2011-12 season advancing as far as the Western Conference Finals in that playoff run, only to fall short to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. After 17 seasons of being referred to as the Phoenix Coyotes, the franchise rebranded to their most recent name, the Arizona Coyotes, to reflect their mission to represent and commit to all loyal hockey fans in the state of Arizona.
“It’s a very exciting time to be a part of the Rush organization, and this announcement proves that. I’m really looking forward to this partnership with Arizona,” Rush Head Coach Daniel Tetrault commented on the new affiliation. “The timing couldn’t be more perfect, in my opinion, given that Arizona has new ownership like we do, and all three organizations are trending in the right direction. My first year on the Rush coaching staff as an assistant was with Arizona, and the relationship was great. Over those two years as the ECHL affiliate, we helped develop four players that eventually played in the NHL with the Coyotes. Coach Ferrara and I truly enjoy developing young talent, and take a lot of pride in the fact that Arizona is trusting us with the development of their prospects. We’ll do our very best to make them ready for the next level, and can’t wait to get started with their players.”
Arizona has a strong history of hockey throughout their tenure in the league. Forwards Mike Gartner and Brett Hull, two players that passed through either the original Jets or the Coyotes, grace Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame. Keith Tkachuk, 1996 World Cup of Hockey Champion and 2002 Olympic Silver Medalist with Team USA, has the most PIM in Coyotes history, is in the top five in nine other statistical categories, and is one of eight players to have his number retired along with fellow 2002 Olympic Silver Medalist Jeremy Roenick, who is also in the top-ten all-time in seven statistical categories. Most recently, the Coyotes organization retired the #19 of long-time Captain Shane Doan last season, who played his entire NHL career as a member of the original Winnipeg Jets and the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes. Doan is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (1,540), goals (402), assists (570), points (972), power play goals (128), and game-winning goals (69).
The Coyotes are led by Head Coach Rick Tocchet on the bench, now entering his third season with the team. On the on the ice, the team is led by second-year Captain and two-time World Champion Gold Medalist Oliver Ekman-Larsson, considered by many to be one of the best defensemen in the world. Off the ice, the franchise is operated by General Manager John Chayka, who was introduced in the role on May 5, 2016. Chayka is the youngest GM in the history of the National Hockey League at just 26 years of age at the time of his appointment.
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