(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) This past season, the Syracuse Crunch recovered nicely from what was a down year in 2013-14. After landing an affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012-13, Syracuse inherited a squad that was coming off of a Calder Cup championship the year prior as the Norfolk Admirals. The championship experience helped the Crunch get to the Calder Cup final in their first season of affiliation with Tampa Bay, but that success was short lived, as they failed to reach the post-season in Year Two. As the farm team for the Lightning, there’s a lot to be excited about, however. Tampa Bay’s farm system recently produced one of the best lines in the NHL — the trio of
Ondrej Palat and
Nikita Kucherov — and they could be on to something again with the likes of
Joel Vermin and defenseman
Slater Koekkoek. Scouts ranked star AHL netminder
Andrei Vasilevskiy as the top goaltending prospect in THN’s 2015 Future Watch edition and goaltender
Kristers Gudlevskis cracked the top 10 Lightning prospects. With Vasilevskiy a sure thing to make Tampa Bay’s roster in 2015-16, Gudlevskis will be back in the starting role for the Crunch this coming season.
Team History: There are only four franchises who have been around longer without relocating than the Crunch, which may come as a bit of a surprise to some. While they don’t have the storied history of the Hershey Bears or Rochester Americans, the Crunch have been a staple of upstate New York for more than two decades. The franchise began as an expansion club, the Hamilton Canucks, but lasted only two years in Ontario before heading south of the border. They have had a steady following in upstate New York, and the the ‘Crunch’ moniker has stuck with the team through affiliations with the Canucks, Penguins, Blue Jackets, Ducks and Lightning.
Syracuse broke the U.S. indoor attendance record this past season at the Frozen Dome Classic, playing in front of more than 30,000 fans at the Carrier Dome, the home arena of the NCAA’s Syracuse Orange. The franchise leader in games played, assists and points is
Brad Moran, who spent five seasons in Syracuse from 2000 to 2005. Mark Hartigan is the club’s all-time goals leader. The Crunch also have a history of icing some tough customers, with noted AHL tough guys like Jon ‘Nasty’ Mirasty and
Jody Shelley. In their 20 years in Syracuse, the franchise has not captured a Calder Cup.
Logo History: The Hamilton Canucks logo was ripped right from the sweaters of then-affiliate Vancouver, but when the club moved to Syracuse and was in need of a new nickname and logo, a fan vote determined ‘Crunch’ would be the team’s name.
Being that Crunch was a difficult moniker to create a mascot for, team owner Howard Dolgon came up with the idea for a superhero to represent the team. Dolgon’s idea led to the birth of Crunchman. Crunchman would go on to be the franchise’s logo for five seasons before an affiliation with the Columbus Blue Jackets led to the creation of the ‘Al the Ice Gorilla,’ which was a white gorilla pounding its fists while chomping a hockey stick.
For the entire tenure of the Crunch’s affiliation with Columbus, the logo remained unchanged. But in 2010, when Anaheim adopted Syracuse as their farm club, Al received a tweak to his color scheme. The rest of the logo remained largely the same.
Current Logo: When the affiliation with the Lightning kicked in, it was out with the old and in with the new. The Crunch kicked Al to the curb and brought back an old favorite in Crunchman. "Crunchman has been an iconic figure for us,"
Dolgon told CNYCentral.com in July 2012 following the Tampa Bay affiliation announcement. "We let him go 12 years ago and everyone wanted him back. We thought the timing was right, it's a great change with Tampa, and the most popular figure in out history now is back and we're thrilled." What really hurts the Crunch in our rankings isn’t so much the logo itself, but that it’s not altogether obvious what exactly the logo is. Without knowledge of the fan vote, the logo is confusing and there doesn’t appear to be any historical significance. While the team is certainly up against it in coming up with a fitting logo for a nickname that doesn’t lend itself to a logo, cues could have been taken from teams such as the Washington Capitals who have created beautifully stylized word marks in place of a mascot-based logo. The MLB has executed this style of logo to perfection. If it weren’t the 1990s when the team moved to Syracuse -- a time when the Islanders Fisherman came to life and Wild Wing was featured prominently on an Anaheim Mighty Ducks alternate jersey -- one has to wonder if Crunchman would exist today.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)