For 13 years the New Jersey Devils housed their top prospects in Albany, New York. There the players became NHLers, All-Stars, Olympic medal winners and Stanley Cup Champions. Everything old can be new again for the 2010-11 season and beyond, but it is ultimately up to one Louis A. Lamoriello to make it a reality. And I for one don't believe there's any reason this reuniting of parties shouldn't happen.
According to the Albany Times Union, Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber has offered a 10-year contract to the New Jersey Devils to move their AHL club from Lowell, Mass. to Albany. The parameters of the current offer would give the Devils a far better lease agreement than the current tenant Albany River Rats were given by the arena a few years back. One that ironically could have put the club on much better financial footing to perhaps keep the current franchise in operation under a different affiliate instead of having to sell to a croup in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The deal would give the Devils AHL club basically the run of the building, with more ice time to practice with, locker room space along with amenities and upgrades to the TU Center facilities overall to keep AHL hockey in Albany for the foreseeable future. In addition it would also get the Devils out of Lowell, who let's face it can't draw flies and are the only AHL city yet to draw over 100,000 fans in total this season and average just over 2,450 per game.
With their lease agreement up in Lowell, this is the perfect time for the Devils to come back to Albany, a place where they had a nice fit for the better part of 13 years and likely never wanted to leave in the first place. This time around they'll own the team in Albany and while the last six years of playoff-less hockey may have strained relations to where the River Rats opted to bring in the Carolina Hurricanes affiliate, a 10-year sweetheart offer doesn't indicate to me that bridges were completely napalmed between Albany and New Jersey.
This deal makes too much sense not to happen. The Devils farm system is coming back up to the level of the 1990's where they reached the playoffs seven straight years in Albany from 1993-2000, bringing home a Calder Cup in 1994-95, two years in a row with the league's best record and four straight division titles, including two conference final runs in the playoffs and they appear to be heading back to the AHL playoffs this season as well.
Just think of the rivalry which is coming back into form with Albany and Adirondack, with affiliates of the Devils and Flyers going at it, think of it as future Jersey Turnpike wars going up and down the Northway on I-87. That and once again being able to follow the team's top prospects not far away on TV on a regular basis on MSG and MSG Plus will only serve to make a stronger connection between fans of the AHL and NHL club.
This is where the Devils fan base still lives. Not too close, not too far away and centrally located to numerous AHL cities. I've been following the River Rats and Devils for over 17 years now and I can't envision that building going dark next season, there has to be a deal reached because the Capital Region loves hockey.Now it's up to you Lou, please make it happen.