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The 2022 Calder Cup winning Chicago Wolves will soon be operating without an NHL affiliate, the first team in the AHL to do so since the 1994-95 season. The team’s affiliation deal with the Carolina Hurricanes ended with the 2022-23 season, and the Illinois-based team has chosen not to renew the agreement, instead opting to become a completely independent organization within the AHL system for the 2023-24 season.
During the April 5 edition of The Jeff Marek Show, insider Elliotte Friedman mentioned that the organization had sent emails to player agents, advertising a team free of NHL organizational oversight. This claim was further backed up with quotes from Wolves general manager Wendell Young in The Athletic, saying the team wanted to work on their own philosophy, rather than the philosophy coming from “up top.”
This is quite a bold move for an organization, but the Wolves have always been working outside the box and have been quite successful doing so.
The Wolves are one of the 11 active AHL teams not owned in correlation with an active NHL team.
Not being owned by a NHL team can have a drastic impact on a lot of things, especially when it comes to priorities and processes.
The team joined the AHL in 2001, after being part of the now-defunct International Hockey League (IHL) from 1994 to 2001. Since joining the AHL, the Wolves have been the affiliate for the Atlanta Thrashers, the Vancouver Canucks, the St. Louis Blues, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Though the Wolves did not qualify for the 2023 Calder Cup playoffs, the team has been quite successful in the postseason, both in the AHL and the IHL.
The team never missed the IHL postseason, winning 2 championships, and has only missed the Calder Cup playoffs six times in franchise history. The Wolves won the Calder Cup in 2002 and 2008 while affiliated with the Thrashers, and in 2022 while affiliated with the Hurricanes.
We believe that independance is not necessarily a fit for every organization, but for those that can hack it, it can be quite powerful.