Ties with AHL team went back to 1996

Updated: March 18, 2005, 6:31 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche will cut their minor-league affiliation with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League at the end of the season, ending a relationship dating back to 1996.

"There are several options available to us, but we won't be making any decision on an affiliate until there is a new NHL [collective bargaining agreement]," Avalanche director of media relations Jean Martineau said Thursday. "Regarding Hershey, we're moving on. We had an excellent relationship with them, but we've opted for another direction."

One possibility is becoming the parent club of the Loveland-based Colorado Eagles, currently ranked first in the Central Hockey League. If that happened, the team could join the AHL or convert to a major junior team.

Eagles coach and vice president Chris Stewart acknowledged the Avalanche could become the team's parent, but said no formal discussions have taken place.

The Eagles have sold out every game at the 5,289-seat Budweiser Events Center over their first two years. They begin the playoffs at home next Friday.

The CHL, however, is considered a notch or two below the AHL when it comes to the quality of players. An AHL affiliation in Loveland would mean many of the Avalanche's top prospects would be on display a 40-minute drive from Denver.

With Hershey, call-ups mean a flight to Denver from Harrisburg, Pa., the nearest airport from Hershey.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press