On Tuesday the Blackhawks announced a new five-year ECHL affiliation agreement with the Indy Fuel.
The team, based out of Indianapolis, Ind., will begin their inaugural season in October to become the league's 23rd active franchise.
“We are excited to begin this new partnership with the Indy Fuel,” Blackhawks director of hockey administration and general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard said via a team press release. “The Blackhawks and the city of Indianapolis have a history of developing many players that have had successful National Hockey League careers and we look forward to doing the same with the Fuel and our deep group of talented prospects. The Blackhawks would also like to thank Joe Napoli, Nick Vitucci and the entire Toledo Walleye organization and their fans for a successful affiliation over the past five seasons.”
The Fuel will play their home games at the newly-renovated Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum. The new agreement paves the way for professional hockey to return to Indiana for the first time since 1999 when the Indianapolis Ice ended their 16-year run as a member of the Central Hockey League. The Ice had served as an affiliate to the Blackhawks from 1989-1998.
Prior to their new partnership with the Fuel, the Blackhawks have had seven previous ECHL affiliates: Columbus Chill (1995-99), Jackson Bandits (2001-02), Roanoke Express (2002-03), Greenville Grrrowl (2004-06), Pensacola Ice Pilots (2007-08), Fresno Falcons (2008-09) and Toledo Walleye (2009-14).