The South Carolina Stingrays began looking for a new National Hockey League affiliate Monday after the Washington Capitals ended an eight-year relationship, dropping the ECHL team for a tie closer to home. Capitals officials phoned the Stingrays last week to say they signed a deal with the ECHL’s Reading Royals.
Reading, Pa., is a better geographic fit for Washington, which has an American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa.
“It’s been a great eight years with the Capitals,” Stingrays President Rob Concannon said. “(Stingrays head coach) Spencer Carbery and I will definitely explore all options, and we’ve already been in contact with a couple of NHL teams.”
Of the 23 franchises the ECHL will field for the 2012-2013 season, 10 will have one NHL affiliate, seven will have two, three will operate independently and three are uncommitted.
In signing with Washington, Reading ended ties with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.
“There is no real timetable for us,” Concannon said. “We just want to talk to another team or two. Spencer and I will sit down and discuss it. Usually we had our talks with the Capitals in mid-July.”
Concannon sees the Stingrays’ franchise tradition as attractive to NHL teams.
“That’s the way we look at it,” he said.
The Stingrays have won three Kelly Cup championships in the ECHL since 1997. The 2011-2012 team had a winning record, 37-28, but finished fourth in the ECHL South Division.