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Arizona Coyotes to affiliate with the ECHL's Rapid City Rush

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The Arizona Coyotes and the Rapid City Rush will partner in the ECHL for the 2015-16 season.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After three seasons with the Gwinnett Gladiators, the Arizona Coyotes have switched East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) teams, and will now affiliate with the Rapid City Rush.

Rapid City is a relative newcomer to the ECHL; they were a member of the Central Hockey League (CHL) - of which the Arizona Sundogs were also a member - from 2008-2014. When the CHL disbanded in 2014, the Rush were one of seven clubs to move into the ECHL for the 2014-15 season.

The Rush's first year in the ECHL was a decent one; they made the Kelly Cup Playoffs, and won their first round series against the Quad City Mallards (another ex-CHL team), before falling to the eventual ECHL Champion Allen Americans.

The move is advantageous for home games; a plane flight from Atlanta (the major city to which Gwinnett is a suburb) to Phoenix is about 1600 miles, or about four hours. By contrast, a flight from Rapid City, South Dakota to Phoenix is about 800 miles, or two and half hours by plane.

Why does this matter? Because of the ECHL's status as a second tier minor league beneath the American Hockey League, the only realistic scenario in which an ECHL player would be called up straight from the AHL would be in a goaltender emergency.

Given Arizona's AHL affiliate is all the way across the country in Springfield, Massachusetts, it's conceivable that the Coyotes could quickly call-up a goaltender from Rapid City in the early afternoon off a game-day and still get them to the arena in time to dress.

The affiliation agreement lasts for only one season, so it remains to be seen if this is a temporary stopping point en route to a more geographically favorable affiliation agreement, or the beginning of a longer, more fruitful relationship.