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      Crunch come into first Syracuse practice as Champions

      It's not often an established hockey city gains an entirely new hockey team, but then again it's even more rare to gain a reigning champion. The Syracuse Crunch officially began their new affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday morning, as the current Calder Cup Champions, formerly the Norfolk Admirals, took to practice at the Syracuse Crunch.

      " E verybody is pretty excited to come to a new city," says Keith Aulie, "and meet a new organization, meet the new locals and see the fans."

      " W e knew that we were going to be the hunted here," joked Head Coach Jon Cooper, "so we thought if we changed cities and changed colors people would think we were an expansion team."

      But the new look Crunch don't plan on playing like an expansion team. Captain Mike Angelidis says this team has a perfect mix on contributors who are hungry to give Syracuse the chance to soak in that championship feeling.

      " O ur goal is to win a championship," says Angelidis, "anything less than that is unacceptable in our eyes."

      And while that should be enough for Syracuse Crunch fans to buzz about, another thing to get excited about could stem from the NHL lockout. While most hockey fans would agree that the sport is better off with NHL hockey in full swing, an stoppage of play would allow some of Tampa Bay's young talent to instead start the season at the War Memorial Arena.

      "The sport is better off when the NHL is playing," admits Crunch Head Coach Jon Cooper, "but for the fans the American League is going to be the place to play."

      Brett Connolly played 68 games for the Lightning last season, and says there's lots to get excited about if he has to begin this year in Syracuse.

      " I t's something that I wanted to do," says Connolly, "I wanted to be playing, I wanted to be staying in game shape. They have a very good thing going here in Syracuse, great coaches and great players, it's gonna be a lot of fun."