Golden Knights purchase AHL franchise, Wolves owner confident team will find new NHL partnership
Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin knew from the start of this season that his team's affiliation with the Vegas Golden Knights would be coming to an end.
And it all but became official Thursday when Vegas announced it plans to buy the AHL franchise in San Antonio. Assuming the purchase and relocation to Henderson/Las Vegas, Nevada is approved by the AHL Board of Governors, Vegas' three-year partnership with the Wolves will conclude at the end of this campaign.
"It was sort of a surprise when they first said it," said Levin, who co-founded the Wolves in 1994. "It was not what we were told at the beginning.
"But I understand. Things happen. They've done well; hockey's very, very popular in Las Vegas and I think that they'll do well with it there."
Vegas, which played its first NHL season in 2017-18, named the Wolves as its AHL franchise in May 2017. While the Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup Final that season, the Wolves also put together a successful campaign by winning their division with a 44-19-13 record.
Last season, the Wolves overcame a slow start and went all the way to the Calder Cup Final. This season, a much younger Wolves squad struggled at first but is currently third in the Central Division.
Now the Wolves must find another NHL franchise to partner with. They could go back to the St. Louis Blues, whose AHL affiliate is San Antonio, but Levin said he has no interest in rekindling that relationship.
One of Levin's primary wishes is for the Wolves to field a competitive team every year.
In the end, he figures a solid organization will come calling, although it doesn't figure to be the Blackhawks, whose contract with Rockford runs through 2021-22.
"We've been approached by other teams in the past: 'If this ever happens, consider us,' " Levin said.
"We are a good location because we're close to a lot of places. You do have to go by plane, but there's a lot of flights out of O'Hare.
"We want to find the best possible fit. For us it's about having some veterans and being able to win some games."
Before St. Louis, the Wolves NHL affiliates were Vancouver (2011-13) and the Atlanta Thrashers (2001-11).