It's official. The New Jersey Devils will move their AHL affiliation back to Albany this fall, but this time, the team will be owned and operated by the NHL club, which was just eliminated in the 1st round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Albany River Rats, affiliated with the Carolina Hurricanes these days, will relocate to Charlotte after they are eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs, which could happen as early as Thursday. The Rats' lone AHL championship came under Devil stewardship in 1995, but they've made the playoffs in 3 of the last 4 seasons. The Devils will move their team from Lowell, Mass. and into the Times-Union Center, pending renovations to the arena, including a new scoreboard, from what I've read, in time for the 2010-11 season. New Jersey ended their association with the Rats after the 2005-6 season, but after Walt Robb sold the Rats, and after the Hurricanes announced that the team would move to North Carolina, where they'll be known as the Checkers, T-U Center officials moved quickly to fill the void.
All Albany needs now is a new mascot, since Rowdy & Rudy, the Rats' mascots, will be retired.
The only downside is that with the renovations comes the likely increase in ticket prices, which might be a small price to pay to keep pro hockey in Albany---and continue the Northway Series with the Adirondack Phantoms---but the Devils will need to work on improving the fanbase, which averages anywhere from two to four thousand per game. Maybe if they did some cross-promoting with the local colleges.......