The Iowa Heartlanders, the new ECHL hockey team slated to begin play at the Xtream Arena in Coralville in October, will be formally affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild beginning with the 2021-2022 season, team officials announced in a news release Thursday.
“We are thrilled to announce a new ECHL affiliation agreement with the Iowa Heartlanders,” Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin said in a news release. “We look forward to being a part of the Heartlanders inaugural season and helping grow the great sport of hockey while also having the opportunity to develop players at both the AHL and ECHL level in Iowa. This is an exciting day for our organization.”
The Heartlanders – formally introduced at a news conference May 20 at the Xtream Arena – will kick off their inaugural 2021-22 season at home Oct. 22 against ECHL Calgary Flames affiliate, the Kansas City Mavericks.
Under the affiliation agreement, the Heartlanders will serve as a resource for the development efforts and personnel needs of both the Iowa and Minnesota Wild. The agreement allows Wild prospects to be assigned to the Heartlanders for developmental purposes throughout the season. Minnesota’s primary development affiliate is the Des Moines-based Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League (AHL).
“We are excited to enter into this affiliation agreement with the Minnesota Wild and their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild,” Iowa Heartlanders President Brian McKenna said. “We share the Wild’s vision on player development and look forward to being a link in the development chain and helping prepare prospects for promotion within the system. Geographically, the distance between St. Paul, Des Moines and Coralville will make player movement much easier. Beyond that, we look forward to working with the Iowa Wild to promote the sport within the state and grow hockey at the grassroots level.”
The Heartlanders is the state’s first ECHL team and was approved by the league’s Board of Governors for expansion in January 2021. The Heartlanders are owned by Deacon Sports and Entertainment and will play at the 5,100-seat Xtream Arena, which was completed in September 2020.