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For the 2009-2010 season, the Boston Bruins will have more options when it comes to designating and developing players. In addition to the Providence Bruins, Boston will have the Reading (Pa.) Royals of the ECHL as a secondary affiliate. The Reading Royals are also currently an affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a fellow Original Six team.
The Royals began playing in the ECHL as the Columbus Chill in 1991, but moved to Reading in 2001 in order for the Columbus Blue Jackets to enjoy the entire area’s hockey market. Upon their arrival in Reading, the team became affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings, who demonstrated their more creative side by naming the Royals, designing the crowned lion logo, and implementing the same black, purple, silver, and white color scheme the Kings were already sporting.
In 2008, the Royals began their primary affiliation with the Maple Leafs, relegating the Kings to a secondary affiliation, which was terminated upon the completion of this past season. The Bruins, who did not have an ECHL affiliate last season and often had to send players (namely goaltender Kevin Regan) to the Alaska Aces, filled the void left by the Kings.
While the Royals have never been wildly successful in the ECHL, they have often ranked amongst the league’s leaders in regular season attendance. Current Anaheim Duck George Parros played for the Royals as a member of the Kings’ development system and became the first Royal to ever appear in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Royals can also boast that they helped in the development of the first-ever Japanese citizen to play in the NHL, Yutaka Fukufuji, who now plays for the Destil Trappers of the Eredivisie, the premier hockey league in the Netherlands.
The agreement between the Bruins and Royals will provide the B’s with more options and increased flexibility when dealing with designating and developing players. The trip to Reading will certainly be longer than the short jaunt down I-95 to Providence, but designated players will enjoy the increased playing time that should result from having a second affiliation. The ECHL is often viewed as the “Double-A” league in comparison to the “Triple-A” AHL, which means the Bruins will be able to send players that aren’t quite developed enough for the AHL to Reading.
As a result, the Bruins will have the ability to narrow their focus on players they may need late in the season when injuries begin to take their toll. The shared affiliation with the Maple Leafs, while interesting because of the B’s-Leafs rivalry, will most likely not provide any subplots during the season as many NHL teams share affiliations. As a result, it is easy to say that the Bruins made a smart move in signing into this secondary affiliation.