Thursday, May 10, 2012
Out of Hibernation, Into the Wild
Now 22 years later, he'll be back watching the new version of the team play, with a vested interest.
Mill's Minnesota Wild, for whom he is an assistant to GM Chuck Fletcher, was announced Thursday as the NHL affiliate of the new Solar Bears, who will play in the ECHL this October when the 2012-13 starts up. Minnesota did not have an ECHL affiliate last year, but they did have an American Hockey League affilliate, the Houston Aeros, which will serve as the midpoint on a hockey player's journey in the NHL from Orlando to Minnesota.
Solar Bears Managing Partner said a longtime relationship between he, Mill and Chief Operating Officer Bob Ohrablo helped pave the way toward aligning the Bears with the Wild.
"We've known Jim a while; it's a small community," he said. "We had a list of values that we thought would make a terrific partner. We wanted an NHL team that owned their AHL team."
Mill said the Wild wanted to seize the chance to create a complete line of teams from the ECHL up.
"We think it's important to have a base of players in our system," he said. "There's a world-class environment and facilities here, and the ease of travel between Houston and Orlando was a factor; there's non-stop flights every hour."
Mill said the Wild will assign the organization's fifth-best goalie to the Solar Bears, along with two or three defense and two or three forwards the deem as top prospects. He said the team will succeed because, in short, it will win.
"Our business is all about winning and developing winners, not hockey players," he said. "The same winning tradition we build in Houston is what we intend to develop here."
And Ohrablo said since that will be most important to the fans, it's most important to the administration.
"We strongly believe that affiliating with the Wild will provide us with a solid core of players from which we can build a competitive and exciting team for our fans," he said.
And with the three tiers of the organization in place, let the irony begin: in 1999, the Solar Bears trailed in the Turner Cup finals 3-0 before storming back to force a Game 7, which they lost. The opponent? The Houston Aeros.