From Alaska to Kalamazoo: Canucks announce new but old ECHL affiliate

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      The Vancouver Canucks announced a new East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) affiliate Wednesday that may sound familiar to some fans.

      The Canucks were left searching for a farm team in the ECHL after it was announced in February that the Alaska Aces would be folding. Enter the Kalamazoo Wings. For the third time.

      The one-year partnership with the Aces came on the heels of a four-year agreement with the Wings from 2011 to 2015. In addition, the Wings were also the IHL Canucks affiliate from 1984 to 1987.

      The ECHL is one step below the American Hockey League, and the Utica Comets will work closely with Kalamazoo.

      Since the Wings joined the ECHL in 2009, four players have made their NHL debuts with the Vancouver Canucks after appearing with Kalamazoo: Darren Archibald, Alex Friesen, Alexandre Grenier, and Evan McEneny.

      Many NHL coaches had stints with the Wings before making it to the bigs, including Claude Noel, Jim Playfair, and Ken Hitchcock, whose last stop before leading the Dallas Stars to a Stanley Cup was with the Wings. 

      Kalamazoo is a city in southwest Michigan, equidistant from Detroit and Chicago with a metro population of 335,340 as of 2015.

      The Wings play in the aptly named Wings Event Center.