The Dayton Gems have fallen in line with some of their International Hockey League breathren and inked an affiliation agreement with the lower-level Chi-Town Shooters of the All-American Hockey League.
(If you're confused by the Shooters' name, as I know I am, they are based in Dyer, Indiana. How could we not have known?)
The Shooters won the AAHL championship last season. The Komets have a similar agreement with the Evansville Icemen.
This line from the Gems' press release caught my attention: "The Gems will be holding a roster of 19 active players and utilizing the Shooters in order to keep the two inactive players on the Gems roster skating and in playing shape."
First of all, we often see IHL teams letting players languish in the stands or putting them on injured reserve, so I like the wording of the Gems' intent. Also, though these AAHL affiliations are new, the other teams (Fort Wayne and Muskegon) have talked all about the call-ups, not so much about sending players down and using that aspect of it.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but it sounds good.
Note to Gems, though: Why aren't you putting news releases, like the one about this announcement, on your Web site for your fans to see?
Speaking of affiliations, I've had some long talks with high-ranking league members this week about the ramifications of the IHL aligning with higher-level NHL and American Hockey League clubs. People are really split on this.
The Quad City Mallards, for example, have a working agreement with the Philadelphia Flyers. This sounds good, but it's hard to get amped up until you see legitimate prospects land in Moline, Ill. I'm told they should get a handful of players, but we'll have to see.
The IHL's new commissioner, Dennis Hextall, wants to see more affiliations, but they can also be smoke and mirrors; I'd hate to see an IHL team holding out hope to get a player that never arrives, as we've seen many times in Fort Wayne.
And, of course, when a team loses its best player to a higher-level club near the playoffs, it can be frustrating. But you have to remember, that can happen to some extent with or without affiliations. If a higher-level club really wants a guy, they'll get him.
Regardless of whether the IHL believes it is a developmental league, they need to explore affiliations because it legitimizes the IHL. But as some of the people I spoke with warned, don't get too caught up in them until it's justified. Remember, the Red Wings weren't exactly stocking Port Huron with a ton of NHL talent.
It's food for thought, anyway.