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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Condors general manger John Olver said his main goal after being hired earlier this year was to set up a hockey operations department that could be competitive as an independent in the ECHL.
Those moves paid off Thursday as the team announced it had secured a National Hockey League affiliation with the Edmonton Oilers.
It is the first time since the 2010-11 season and just the fourth time in team history the Condors have had an affiliation with a NHL team.
"Even though we initially put together a staff to be competitive as an independent, it ultimately made us attractive to NHL teams," Olver said. "It set us apart as to what we can offer as far as player development."
What the Condors can offer is an American Hockey League type of hockey operations department with a general manger (Olver); head coach (Troy Mann) and an assistant coach (expected to be announced next week).
Olver said the Condors were in talks at one point with four teams about full affiliations.
He said Edmonton was one of "about 15" AHL teams the Condors contacted about trying to secure some training camp roster spots and that initial conversation started things rolling toward an affiliation.
Mann met with Oiler representatives, as well as some from other teams, at the NHL draft in late June and talks progressed from that point.
"We are very pleased to welcome the Bakersfield Condors into the Edmonton Oilers family and look forward to working with General Manager John Olver and his staff as we continue to develop our players and prepare them for the National Hockey League," said Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish in a release.
The Oilers had been the affiliate of Bakersfield's Highway 99 rival, the Stockton Thunder, for the past several seasons. The Thunder won the Western Conference title this past season and lost to Reading, Pa., in the Kelly Cup Final.
Since then former Thunder president Dan Chapman left to take a job with the University of the Pacific and former head coach Matt Thomas left to take a similar position with the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Olver said he expects the Oilers to initially place five to seven players with the Condors -- a goaltender, one or two defensemen and three or four forwards.
"Edmonton is committed to developing young players, they've drafted well and they have a lot of young guys in their system," Olver said. "They were looking for some sort of pipeline that offers development and I don't think we take a back seat to anybody."
Edmonton's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate is the Oklahoma City Barons.
"It's one of the closest AHL teams to us geographically, which is a plus," Olver said.
With the building blocks now in place, Olver and Mann will spend the rest of the summer looking to build a team.
"We still have to go out and recruit players, but now we're not operating with any type of handicap," Olver said. "Now we have something to sell agents and players and I think it gives us a lot more credibility.
"All we've done is establish a foundation for what it takes to be successful. Now we can go to work assembling a team."
Past NHL affiliations for the Condors were with the Anaheim Ducks in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and the Minnesota Wild in 2010-11.