Trenton Titans return to ECHL, will affiliate with Flyers for 2011-12 season

In 2007, the New Jersey Devils bought the Trenton Titans. In a continued effort to stretch their brand south towards Philadelphia Flyers territory in the state, they renamed the team the Trenton Devils and began what would be a four year experiment in the city. 

The results were less than pretty. As has been the case in a million other places where the Devils have set up their minor league shop, they proved that they didn't really care about the team winning on the ice, nor did they necessarily care about the fans. (See: Devils, Lowell.)

The Titans had been one of the most successful franchises in the ECHL, both in terms of on-ice success and fan support, prior to the Devils taking over operations in '07.

Affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers and Phantoms (and the New York Islanders briefly as part of a dual affiliation) from 1999 to the sale in '07, the Titans finished first in their division twice, lost in the Kelly Cup Finals once and won the Kelly Cup one time in their first eight seasons. They only missed the playoffs once during that period. 

When the Devils stepped in, everything fell apart. Fans of the team, primarily located in Flyers country (albeit on the Northern reaches of it), were alienated by the Devils name and the tossing out of the old Titans brand they had learned to love. More importantly, the product on the ice quickly fell from first-class to something much less, and the team missed the playoffs in three of the four years under Devils control.

As was the case in Lowell (and as could be the ultimate case in Albany, N.Y. with the Devils current AHL affiliate), attendance dwindled and fan support evaporated. The team officially ceased operations following the 2010-11 season, in which they finished dead last in the 19-team league. The Devils said in making the announcement that they lost money in every season they owned the team. In other words, they ran a proud franchise into the ground. 

ECHL hockey will stay alive in Trenton thanks to a new local ownership group called Blue Line Sports, run by a couple from Lawrenceville, and they'll of course be called the Titans. Once again, they'll be affiliated with the Flyers organization. Last year, the Flyers sent ECHL players to Greenville, S.C. as part of a dual affiliation with the New York Rangers. Less than ideal, to say the least. 

The Titans roster will be filled out by Flyers ECHL-level prospects, as well as players on contract with the Titans, and hockey operations will be out of the hands of the Devils organization. Just like the good old days of Titans hockey. Fans in Trenton are surely just happy to have hockey to watch this fall, but who knows? Maybe it'll be winning hockey as well. 

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