Since the 1991-92 season, the Boston Bruins have had 10 seasons without an official affiliate in the ECHL. Over this time, the B’s have had six different ECHL teams affiliated with the organization: Johnstown Chiefs (1991-93, 2007-08), Charlotte Checkers (1993-94, 1995-98), Greenville Grrrowl (2001-02), Reading Royals (2009-12), South Carolina Stingrays (2012-15), and most recently the Atlanta Gladiators (2015-20).
With the Gladiators opting out of the 2020-21 season, the B’s had an unofficial ECHL affiliate, sharing the Jacksonville Icemen with the Winnipeg Jets. While the Bruins, Jets, both teams’ AHL affiliates, and Icemen had a deal in place to take players from both the B’s and Jets’ organization, the Icemen were not actually an official affiliate of the Black and Gold.
As I previously mentioned, the B’s out recent official ECHL affiliate was the Atlanta Gladiators. The Gladiators have been the ECHL affiliate since the 2015-16 season. The B’s and Gladiators renewed their partnership for the 2019-20 season, but never made a deal for anything after that with the Gladiators opting out of this season.
Now, there are rumors that the B’s will be switching there ECHL affiliate for the 2021-22 season. The team that is rumored to the B’s next ECHL affiliate is the Maine Mariners.
The Bruins have a history with Maine.
If this rumor is true. this will be the first time the B’s will be affiliating with the ECHL team, the Maine Mariners. However, this will not be the first time Boston has affiliated with an organization named the Maine Mariners.
From 1987-92, the B’s AHL affiliate was the Maine Mariners. The Mariners were actually the predecessors to the P-Bruins. However, these are not the same organization.
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The AHL Mariners have actually had two different organizations. The first organization existed from 1977 until 1987 as they relocated to Utica, NY after the 1986-87 season and became the Utica Devils.
However, with he help of players in the B’s organization, the second AHL Mariners organization was created as an expansion team in 1987. They existed until the 1991-92 season. After this season, they relocated to Providence, RI and became the Providence Bruins.
The ECHL Mariners are basically brand new. Their first season was 2018-19 as they replaced the Portland Pirates who moved to Springfield, MA and became the Thunderbirds. While the team is new to Maine, the organization itself, isn’t actually new. They relocated from Alaska and were originally the Aces. The ECHL Mariners were previously affiliated with the New York Rangers.
If the B’s do in fact affiliate themselves with the Maine Mariners, I think the move will be beneficial for the organization. This is mainly because of the much closer distance of Portland, ME to both Providence and Boston.
With the P-Bruins being much closer to their ECHL affiliate, it’ll make sending players down and calling players up much easier, and also minimize fatigue from doing so. While ECHL to NHL and NHL to ECHL transactions are extremely rare, the same advantage for AHL and ECHL can be said for NHL and ECHL.
Right now, Maine being the next ECHL affiliate of the B’s is just a rumor. We probably will not find out if this rumor is true or not until Wednesday, June 30, when the Mariners plan to make a major announcement.