The Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs announced an extension of their affiliation through the 2021-22 season on Thursday. Rockford has been the AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks since 2007 and as such is the top minor league team in the organization.
The agency that runs BMO Harris Bank Center, where the IceHogs play, finalized their agreement with the Blackhawks to complete the deal. The previous contract was set to expire at the end of next season, which would've left the Hawks free to potentially seek out a new AHL affiliate.
The city, which owns the IceHogs, pays the Blackhawks to host their minor league team there. According to Isaac Guerrero of the Rockford Register Star, the annual fee the team receives will continue to run at $900,000 before increasing to $925,000 in 2019, then $950,000 in 2020.
The team's popularity is also growing. The IceHogs' attendance grew in "seven of its last eight seasons and 31 percent overall since the team joined the AHL in 2007-08," per Guerrero. Having a Cup-winning NHL team to the southeast and good prospects playing there probably helps with that.