After operating a minor-league affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, for the past six years, the Minnesota Wild are growing their brand south of the border. On Thursday, the organization announced a multi-year deal with the Iowa Heartlanders of the East Coast Hockey League that will begin with the 2021-22 season.

“We are thrilled to announce a new ECHL affiliation agreement with the Iowa Heartlanders,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said in a 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.”

Located in Coralville, Iowa, which is about 4 1/2 hours from St. Paul, the Heartlanders will allow the Wild to streamline their player development. The organization can now send top prospects to either the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League or the Heartlanders of the ECHL.

“We are excited to enter into this affiliation agreement with the Minnesota Wild and their AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild,” Heartlanders president Brian McKenna said in a release. “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.”

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