PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced on Wednesday that its 25th season will begin on Friday, Oct. 12 with seven games being played in six states from New Jersey to California and continues on Saturday, Oct. 13 with 11 more games in nine states. Opening Weekend concludes on Sunday, Oct. 14 with one game.
Three of the ECHL’s four new members open their home schedules on the first weekend of the season. On Oct. 12, the Fort Wayne Komets host the Kalamazoo Wings at Memorial Coliseum while the San Francisco Bulls host the Bakersfield Condors in the first professional hockey game at the Cow Palace since 1996. The Evansville IceMen play their first ECHL game on Saturday, Oct. 13, hosting Fort Wayne at the Ford Center.
The Orlando Solar Bears open their home schedule at Amway Center on Saturday, Oct. 20 against Florida.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that will have 23 teams in 16 states playing 828 games from Oct. 12, 2012 to March 30, 2013.
Wheeling celebrates its 21st season in 2012-13 while South Carolina plays its 20th season. Toledo returns for its 19th season, Florida celebrates its 15th year, Trenton its 14th season and Reading its 12th season in the ECHL. Alaska, Bakersfield, Gwinnett, Idaho and Las Vegas each celebrate their 10th ECHL season in 2012-13.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL averaged 4,281 fans per game in 2011-112 which is the eighth consecutive season and the 20th time in the last 22 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.
The Florida Everblades will raise their first-ever Kelly Cup championship banner at Germain Arena on Saturday, Oct. 13 as they host Orlando in the Solar Bears’ first-ever ECHL game.
The Elmira Jackals will celebrate their Atlantic Division title when they open at First Arena against Reading on Friday, Oct. 12, while Ontario, which has led the ECHL in attendance each of the last three seasons, will raise its Pacific Division championship banner on Oct. 13 against Stockton.
Kalamazoo, which has won the North Division title each of its three seasons in the ECHL, opens its home schedule on Friday, Oct. 19 against Fort Wayne. The Gwinnett Gladiators will celebrate their South Division title the same night against Ontario.
Las Vegas will raise its Western Conference championship banner on Friday, Oct. 19 when they host Stockton. The Alaska Aces will raise their sixth division title banner the same night against Utah.
The Trenton Titans, who led the ECHL with a 26.1 percent increase in attendance in 2011-12, opens at home on Friday, Oct. 12 against Greenville. Colorado, which has sold out all 350 regular season and playoff games in team history, hosts Alaska at the Budweiser Events Center on Opening Night, while Idaho hosts Utah and Stockton entertains Ontario in their clubs’ home openers.
Toledo, which has surpassed 6,000 fans per game in two of its three seasons at Huntington Center, hosts Kalamazoo on Saturday, Oct. 13. Cincinnati, which has increased its attendance for each of the last five seasons, opens on Saturday against Wheeling.
It will be a Kelly Cup Playoffs rematch at the North Charleston Coliseum as the South Carolina Stingrays open their home schedule on Oct. 13 against Gwinnett. Also on Saturday, Reading opens its home schedule against Trenton while Utah hosts Idaho in the back end of an opening weekend home-and-home series.
The Bakersfield Condors wrap up Opening Weekend on Sunday, hosting the Las Vegas Wranglers at Rabobank Arena on Sunday, Oct. 14.
The Greenville Road Warriors open play at the BI-LO Center against their in-state rivals, the South Carolina Stingrays, on Friday, Oct. 19. Wheeling is the final team to host its home opener on Friday, Oct. 26 against Reading.
After no games between out-of-conference opponents during the 2011-12 regular season, the 2012-13 schedule sees 24 games between Eastern and Western Conference foes. Ontario travels to Gwinnett on Oct. 19 and South Carolina on Oct. 20 and 21. Bakersfield visits Wheeling on Jan. 25, Toledo on Jan. 26 and Kalamazoo on Jan. 27 while Idaho is at South Carolina on Jan. 25 and Gwinnett on Jan. 26 and 27. Las Vegas heads to Trenton on Jan. 25 and is at Reading on Jan. 26 and 27.
Florida and Fort Wayne will each play a three-game series at Colorado. The Everblades visit on Nov. 21, 23 and 24, while the Komets are at Budweiser Events Center on Feb. 6, 8 and 9. Orlando visits Las Vegas on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and is at Ontario on Dec. 2 while Gwinnett travels to Utah on March 6 and to Idaho on March 8 and 9.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2012-13 and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
• ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league with 23 teams in 16 states in 2012-13.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• 490 players have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 23 in 2010-11.
• 23 ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2011-12: former Toledo Walleye, Gwinnett Gladiators and Colorado Eagles right wing Akim Aliu (Calgary on April 5), former Florida Everblades center Mike Angelidis (Tampa Bay on Jan. 24), former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Jordie Benn (Dallas on Jan. 3), former Bakersfield Condors and Elmira Jackals defenseman Stu Bickel (New York Rangers on Dec. 20), former Greenville Road Warriors defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon (Philadelphia on Nov. 21), former South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Joe Finley (Buffalo on Dec. 2), Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Brian Foster (Florida on Feb. 4), former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Kris Fredheim (Minnesota on Nov. 17), former Gwinnett Gladiators center Ryan Garbutt (Dallas on Feb. 18), former Elmira Jackals center Mike Hoffman (Ottawa on Dec. 23), former Victoria Salmon Kings goaltender Leland Irving (Calgary on Dec. 16), former Toledo Storm and Reading Royals center Bracken Kearns (Florida on Oct. 20), Stockton Thunder center Milan Kytnar (Edmonton on Jan. 11), former Bakersfield Condors center Maxime Macenauer (Anaheim on Oct. 7), former Ontario Reign center Jordan Nolan (Los Angeles on Feb. 11), former Idaho Steelheads center and two-time ECHL All-Star Greg Rallo (Florida on Dec. 18), former Cincinnati Cyclones center Ryan Russell (Columbus on Jan. 7), former Reading Royals goaltender Jussi Rynnas (Toronto on March 27), former Reading Royals goaltender Ben Scrivens (Toronto on Nov. 3), former Cincinnati Cyclones defenseman Frederic St. Denis (Montreal on Nov. 16), former Ontario Reign defenseman Colten Teubert (Edmonton on Nov. 3), former Wheeling Nailers goaltender Brad Thiessen (Pittsburgh on Feb. 26) and former Las Vegas Wranglers right wing Matt Watkins (Phoenix on Feb. 21).
• Six players played in the ECHL and NHL in 2011-12: Akim Aliu with Colorado and Calgary, Brian Foster with Cincinnati and Florida, Milan Kytnar with Stockton and Edmonton, Peter Mannino with Chicago and Winnipeg, Jussi Rynnas with Reading and Toronto and Allen York with Chicago and Columbus.
• The ECHL has had 298 players reach the NHL since 2002-03 when it changed its focus to become the primary developmental league for the NHL and the AHL. The ECHL had 97 players reach the NHL in its first 10 seasons and 215 in the first 15 years.
• 234 ECHL players have played their first game in the last seven seasons for an average of more than 33 per year.
• ECHL had a record 81 players on NHL opening-day rosters in 2011-12, surpassing the 79 from 2010-11 and marking the ninth year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters.
• ECHL had affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams in 2011-12, marking the 15th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 31 coaches with an ECHL background worked behind the benches of teams in the NHL in 2011-12 including Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and 2011 Jack Adams Award winner Dan Bylsma, New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel. It is the seventh consecutive season that there have been 11 or more coaches with an ECHL background working in the NHL. Boudreau, who coached Mississippi for three seasons winning the Kelly Cup championship in 1999, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2007-08 becoming the first former ECHL coach to receive the award.
• 24 former ECHL officials worked as part of the NHL officiating team in 2011-12 with referees David Banfield, Darcy Burchell, Francis Charron, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Mark Lemelin, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre, Graham Skilliter and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Brian Mach, Matt MacPherson, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.
• ECHL was represented for the 11th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion in 2011 with Boston Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward, players Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder and Tim Thomas, radio broadcaster Dave Goucher and scout Tom McVie. Thomas is the first former ECHL player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were 34 former players and 19 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the sixth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the eighth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
• Former ECHL and current Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was the recipient of the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL in 2010-11, marking the second time he has won the award in the past three seasons. Thomas set a single-season NHL record with a .938 save percentage.
• Former ECHL player and current Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was the recipient of the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 2010-11.
• ECHL was represented in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game by Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.
• Former ECHL broadcasters working in the NHL include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Tom Callahan of the Nashville Predators, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues, Jack Michaels of the Edmonton Oilers, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Bob McElligott of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
• Ryan Stanzel and Jeremy Zager, who were both recipients of the ECHL Media Relations Director of the Year award, are working in the communications department for the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Former ECHL assistant director of communications Joe Siville and Kelly Murray are now with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, respectively, while former ECHL director of communications Jason Rothwell is the creative director for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
• In the last seven seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,500 call-ups involving more than 1,800 players and in 2011-12 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,281 fans per game in 2011-12, marking the eighth consecutive season and the 20th time in the last 22 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.