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Lightning will share AHL team


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 30, 2001

DENVER -- A call from an old friend helped solve the Lightning's minor-league problems.

DENVER -- A call from an old friend helped solve the Lightning's minor-league problems.

Tampa Bay will share the American Hockey League's Springfield (Mass.) Falcons with the Coyotes next season, a plan that took shape when Phoenix general manager and former Lightning adviser Cliff Fletcher gave his former team a call.

"I think it will be good for both teams," Fletcher said Tuesday. "With 30 teams in the NHL, it's hard to put a competitive team on the ice with one organization. This will be good for both teams."

"It's a situation that makes sense," Lightning general manager Rick Dudley said. "We'll try to get them the best chance of winning they have."

The Lightning has been looking for an affiliate to replace the IHL's Detroit Vipers, which Palace Sports&Entertainment, owner of the Lightning, is disbanding. The Lightning investigated a deal with the AHL's Americans, but Rochester apparently chose to keep its affiliation with the Buffalo Sabres. "Sometimes there are problems when two teams work together," Fletcher said. "I know Rick and Jay (Feaster, Lightning assistant general manager) very well, and I know it's going to be successful."

Each team is responsible for providing the Falcons 10 players. Dudley said players will be assigned after training camp.

Marc Potvin will remain coach and Norm Maciver his assistant. Dudley said former Vipers coach Brad Shaw has the option of becoming an assistant. He could not be reached for comment.

Dudley said Vipers general manager Grant Sonier will continue his scouting duties with the Lightning. Former Vipers assistant Bobby Jay is not under contract, but Dudley said he would like to keep him in the organization.

Olympic participation beyond 2002 uncertain

The NHL, facing another long shutdown next winter so it can send its stars to the Olympics, won't decide about participating in the 2006 Games in Italy until after Salt Lake City, commissioner Gary Bettman said.

The NHL halted play 21/2 weeks in 1998 so its stars could play in the Olympics, but was embarrassed when the U.S. team trashed several rooms after failing to medal.

The NHL agreed to Olympic play in Salt Lake City because games can be shown in peak U.S. viewership hours -- but only if the layoff was 12 days.

BLUES: St. Louis exercised its option on defenseman Al MacInnis, who had 54 points in 59 games this season and ranks ninth on the team's scoring list with 336 points in 459 games in seven seasons.

CANADIENS: Right wing Marc-Andre Thinel was signed to a three-year contract. Thinel, 20, scored 62 goals for Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.

OILERS: Defenseman Mark-Andre Bergeron and right wings Craig Reichert and Kevin McDonald were signed. Bergeron, 20, broke the season record for goals by a defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season with 42. Reichert played in Germany, and McDonald split the 2000-01 season between the Florida Everblades and the Roanoke Express of the East Coast Hockey League.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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