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TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning have entered into a one-year affiliation agreement with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster. Mississippi will serve as the Lightning’s primary ECHL affiliate starting with the 2007-08 season.

Lightning Assistant General Manager Claude Loiselle, Lightning Assistant to the General Manager Ryan Belec, Mississippi President Bill Yates and Mississippi Head Coach and General Manager Steffon Walby made the announcement at a 3:30 p.m. news conference today in Biloxi. The Lightning organization will provide the Sea Wolves with players under NHL and AHL contracts. The Mississippi coaching staff will not be effected.

“Everyone in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization is excited about our new partnership with the Mississippi Sea Wolves,” Loiselle said. “I am particularly looking forward to working with Steffon Walby, Head Coach and General Manager of the Sea Wolves, as we continue to develop exciting, young hockey players for the Tampa Bay Lightning. We feel that the Gulf Coast area, with its history of great fans, will provide the ideal environment for our prospects. We are especially excited to be there as the Sea Wolves make their long-awaited return to the ice.”

“Our objective as a pro hockey team is to offer these young men the opportunity to develop their skills and advance to the next level,” Yates said. “We look forward to being a part of the pursuit of excellence that Tampa Bay has clearly been dedicated to in recent years.”

“We anticipate some exciting young players in our system this season,” Walby said. “The Lightning take pride in winning at all levels and have made two things very clear to us - they want to develop better hockey players and they want to win.”

Tampa Bay previously had secondary affiliations with Pensacola, Johnstown, Toledo, Chesapeake, Nashville and Knoxville of the ECHL. Tampa Bay announced on March 29, 2007 that they entered into a multi-year affiliation with the Norfolk Admirals (AHL) to be their top minor league affiliate.

The Sea Wolves entered the ECHL in 1996 and have played 10 seasons in Biloxi. They will return to the ice this season after missing the previous two seasons due to damage inflicted on the Mississippi Coast Coliseum by Hurricane Katrina which included the loss of two Zambonis, ice making equipment, dasherboards, team offices and all hockey equipment. Mississippi won the Kelly Cup as champions of the ECHL in 1999. The team will play in the league’s Southeast Division. They will open their season on October 19 at the Florida Everblades in Estero.
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