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Blue Jackets & Gladiators become ECHL Affiliates

As expected, after The Dispatch broke the news over the weekend, the Blue Jackets officially announced Tuesday a new affiliation with the Gwinnett Gladiators of East Coast Hockey League. The Gladiators will become the third different ECHL affiliate in three seasons for the Blue Jackets and the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. The Blue Jackets were affiliated with the Johnstown Chiefs this past season and the Elmira Jackals in 2007-2008. Prior to 2007-2008, the Dayton Bombers had been Columbus’s ECHL partner since the Jackets inception into the NHL in 2000.

The Gladiators are also the ECHL affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers and the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. The Glads, who play their home games in Suburban Duluth, Georgia, have made the playoffs in all six seasons since the franchise relocated from Mobile, Alabama. Former Nashville goaltender Mike Dunham is a notable alumnus of the organization.

Gladiators Head Coach Jeff Pyle appears to have been one of the deciding factors for the change. Pyle has a reputation as one of the top coaches in the ECHL and focuses on preparing players for the next level. “Developing players is crucial to the long term success of any hockey organization,” said Blue Jackets Assistant General Manager Chris McFarland. “We feel very comfortable that Gwinnett will be a great place for our young players to develop and gain valuable professional experience.”

The Gladiators are also a very financially stable organization, which was very likely another motivating factor in the decision. The affiliation appears to be on a one-season basis and the Blue Jackets are only expected to assign two to three players within the organization to Gwinnett. Among other things, the Gladiators finished fourth in The Hockey News ECHL Jersey Ranking Tournament.

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The Fire the Cannon Podcast has been moved to THURSDAY at 7PM. Eric and I will continue to preview the Central Division with this week’s focus on the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have had a very eventful off-season and we’ll be sure to hit on a wide array of topics related to the CBJ. Join the discussion live at 7PM. You can listen to past podcasts here on firethecannon.com, as well as talkshoe.com. You can also download past episodes on iTunes.

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