11 May 2008

Buffalo to change AHL affiliations?

Buffalo's Maine Place


PORTLAND, Maine – Walking into the office of Brian Petrovek, managing owner and chief executive officer of the Portland Pirates, a few things stand out. There are team pictures from his time at USA Hockey. There are comfortable director’s chairs, which allow visitors to see the passers-by on Free Street. And there on his computer screen, in all its Blue and Gold glory, blazes the Buffalo Sabres’ Web site.

No one is ready to confirm the Sabres are moving their minor league affiliate to Portland, but Petrovek’s interest in whether the Sabres are signing their college prospects for next season is a really big clue.

The Sabres are leaving their American Hockey League base of Rochester after 29 years, and Portland is the likely destination. The Pirates are in their third season as the top affiliate for the Anaheim Ducks. Even those with a cursory knowledge of geography know it’s a long way from Maine to California – it is the farthest trek in the AHL at more than 3,000 miles – and joining with the Sabres would give Portland the benefit of having a parent in its own time zone.

“There are some relationships that should change, should move because of geography,” Petrovek said recently. “I think you’re going to see some movement [in the AHL], which will be part of a longer-term strategy to place people better over the next couple of years. If we’re in the changing family, it’s going to be part of a multiple set of moves that is going to be in the best interest of everybody.”

No announcement is expected until the Pirates’ season is over and possibly not until the AHL crowns a champion — two things that may go together. Portland advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-2 series win over archrival Providence on Friday.

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