ESTERO, Fla. — Hertz Arena President and Florida Everblades General Manager Craig Brush announced today that the ECHL Kelly Cup Champions have entered into a multi-year affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, recipients of the 2021-22 Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the NHL’s top regular-season record. The Everblades will serve as a developmental affiliate for the Panthers and their primary developmental affiliate, the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers, starting with the 2022-23 season.
“We are thrilled to have the Florida Panthers as our new NHL affiliate,” Brush said. “Florida’s General Manager Bill Zito and Assistant General Manager Brett Peterson have done an outstanding job and we are looking forward to becoming an integral part of the development of players for the Panthers and Charlotte Checkers.”
"We are pleased to announce a new affiliation with the Florida Everblades," said Brett Peterson, Assistant General Manager of the Florida Panthers. “We wish to thank the Swamp Rabbits for two great seasons and look forward to beginning a new partnership just down the road in Estero, Fla. We look forward to the development of our young players in Florida and many opportunities together with this new pipeline plan.”
Founded in 1993, the Panthers won the organization’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy in 2021-22, after capturing a third division championship. In addition to posting the NHL’s top record in 2021-22, the Panthers have advanced to the postseason each of the last three seasons. Winners of the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and 2021-22, the Panthers also won the Southeast Division in 2011-12. The Panthers previously won the NHL’s Eastern Conference Championship and a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1995-96.
The Everblades and Panthers have been affiliated previously, with the Sunshine State clubs partnering in 2001-02, 2005-07 and 2008-10 seasons. During each of those stretches, the Everblades were entered into affiliation agreements with both the Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Originally founded in 1998, the Everblades will be celebrating the organization’s 25th season in 2022-23. Owned by David Hoffmann and the Hoffmann Family of Companies, the Everblades won the 2022 Kelly Cup Championship after posting a 42-20-6-4 regular-season record and then winning 16 of 20 games in the playoffs. The Kelly Cup was the Blades’ second in franchise history, having previously hoisted the cup in 2012. Additionally, the Everblades have won five conference championships, eight division championships and four Brabham Cups, awarded to the ECHL’s team with the top regular-season record. In 24 seasons, the Everblades have qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs every year but one, and 39 former Everblades players have advanced to play in the NHL.
The Everblades have been affiliated with the Nashville Predators the past three seasons, compiling a 127-52-15-9 regular-season record, good for a .685 winning percentage under the guidance of head coach Brad Ralph. The ECHL’s all-time coaching leader in postseason victories (63), Ralph will be behind the Everblades’ bench for his seventh season in 2022-23.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Predators for their support over the past three seasons,” Brush said. “The mutually beneficial relationship played a key role in winning our second Kelly Cup championship, and we cannot thank the Predators enough for being such a great partner with the Everblades.”
En route to three straight playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history, the Panthers have posted a 130-58-19 record over that span. The 2021-22 Presidents’ Cup winners won a franchise-best 58 games last season and collected 122 points over 82 games.
The Panthers have been part of a development model that has seen a multitude of players advance to the NHL from the ECHL since the League’s inception in 1988. In total, 727 ECHL alumni have gone on to play in the NHL, including 29 who made their debut in 2021-22. Of those players, 63 have played for the Panthers. Over the years, five Everblades alumni have suited up for the Panthers, including David Brine, Ty Jones, Drew Larman, Martin Lojek and Kenndal McArdle.
About the Florida EverbladesSince their inception in 1998, the Florida Everblades have established a reputation as one of the premier organizations in the ECHL. The Blades have been a consistent force on the ice, qualifying for the playoffs in every season but one. Florida also has an impressive trophy case, capturing the 2022 and 2012 Kelly Cups, claiming the Brabham Cup four times for the best regular season record in the ECHL, and winning five conference titles and eight division titles. Through 24 seasons, 39 former Everblades players have advanced to the NHL. In addition to building a winning tradition, the Everblades have also built a loyal, passionate fanbase throughout Southwest Florida finishing in the top five in ECHL attendance in 17 of their 24 seasons, including six seasons of leading the league in attendance. For more information about the Florida Everblades visit FloridaEverblades.com.