The ECHL opens its 16th season on Friday with 11 games, including Texas visiting Atlantic City, who will hoist its Kelly Cup Championship banner and present its championship rings in a pregame ceremony at Historic Boardwalk Hall.
In other games on Friday, Toledo will raise its Brabham Cup Regular Season Championship banner before hosting Johnstown, and Columbia will lift its Southern Conference Championship banner into the Carolina Coliseum rafters before its game with Florence, who the Inferno eliminated in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The two meet again on Saturday when Columbia travels to Florence.
Opening night also features Las Vegas playing its first-ever game when it visits Idaho for the first of three games in three days, and Long Beach visiting Roanoke in the inaugural East-West match-up of the season. Friday also has Louisiana at Mississippi in a rematch of the Kelly Cup Playoffs Southwest Division Finals. The IceGators and Sea Wolves meet again on Saturday at Louisiana. Peoria plays at Cincinnati in a repeat of the Kelly Cup Playoffs Northwest Division Semifinals. Augusta will take to the ice under new ownership when it hosts Florida while the remainder of the Friday’s schedule has Fresno at Bakersfield, South Carolina at Greensboro, and Reading at Trenton.
On Saturday, Atlantic City will host Trenton in a rematch of the Kelly Cup Playoffs Northeast Division Semifinals and the first game of the 2003-04 Garden State Cup Series. The Gwinnett Gladiators will take the ice for the first time at Charlotte, and Pensacola hosts Columbus in its first game under new ownership. San Diego, which won five championships in the West Coast Hockey League, plays its first ECHL game on Saturday when it visits Bakersfield while Cincinnati and Dayton renew their in-state rivalry when the Bombers host the Cyclones.
In a match-up of the top two point finishers from 2002-03, Toledo will visit Peoria, who the Storm beat by a single point to win the Brabham Cup Championship. Texas continues its season-opening Eastern road trip when it visits Reading, which ranked second in ECHL attendance in 2002-03 averaging 5,789 fans per game, while South Carolina, which ranked third in ECHL attendance averaging 5,706 fans per game, will host in-state rival Greenville. Long Beach will travel to Johnstown to face the Chiefs in the renovated historical Cambria County War Memorial, where the famous movie “Slapshot” was filmed, and Roanoke visits Wheeling in its first game under new ownership.
Opening weekend concludes with seven games on Sunday, including the home opener for Columbus, which hosts Gwinnett. Trenton hosts Texas while Pensacola visits Mississippi in a repeat of the Kelly Cup Playoffs Southwest Division Semifinals and Long Beach travels to Wheeling.