The ECHL announced on Wednesday that its 27th season will begin on Friday, Oct. 17 with six games being played in six states from Florida to Alaska and continues on Saturday, Oct. 18 with 10 more games in eight states. Opening Weekend concludes on Sunday, Oct. 19 with two games.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that will have 21 teams in 14 states playing 756 games from Oct. 17, 2014 to April 11, 2015.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL averaged 4,706 fans per game in 2013-14, the highest single-season average since 1999-2000, and the 10th consecutive season and the 22nd time in the last 24 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.
Opening Weekend is highlighted by the ECHL’s newest Member, the Indianapolis Fuel, playing their inaugural game in the newly-renovated Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum on Friday, Oct. 17 against their in-state rival Fort Wayne.
The Alaska Aces, currently in the midst of the Kelly Cup Finals, will raise their fourth consecutive Brabham Cup banner as ECHL regular-season champions, as well as their fourth Western Conference championship banner in club history, when they open the 2014-15 season against Ontario on Oct. 17. It will be a rematch of the 2014 Western Conference Semifinals at Rabobank Arena on Oct. 17 when the Bakersfield Condors host the Stockton Thunder in their home opener. Also out west on Oct. 17, the Utah Grizzlies, who posted the ECHL’s largest attendance increase in 2013-14, open up at home against Idaho.
Elmira opens at home at First Arena on Oct. 17 with a match-up against Kalamazoo while the Florida Everblades host South Carolina in their home opener.
Saturday, Oct. 18 sees six more teams opening their home schedules, including the Fort Wayne Komets hosting Indianapolis in the back end of their opening weekend home-and-home series. The Evansville IceMen, who finished fifth in the ECHL in 2013-14 with 5,369 fans per game, open against Gwinnett. The Orlando Solar Bears, who will host the 2015 ECHL All-Star Game at Amway Center on Jan. 21, open their home season against Greenville while Toledo, which has averaged over 6,000 fans four times in the last five years, hosts Eastern Conference champion Cincinnati in its home opener. The Wheeling Nailers host Reading in their home opener at WesBanco Arena while the final home opener on Saturday has the Idaho Steelheads hosting Utah in the back end of their home-and-home series.
The final home opener of the first weekend is in Stockton on Oct. 19 when the Thnuder host Bakersfield.
Kalamazoo will celebrate its fourth North Division title in five seasons when it hosts its opener at Wings Stadium against Fort Wayne, the Gwinnett Gladiators host Wheeling in its home opener while Greenville hosts South Carolina all on Friday, Oct. 24.
Five teams will hold home openers on Saturday, Oct. 25. The Cincinnati Cyclones will raise their third Eastern Conference championship banner in club history when they host Kalamazoo, while Colorado, which has sold-out every regular-season game in team history, will host Utah at the Budweiser Events Center. Ontario, which became the first ECHL team to average over 8,000 fans per game in 14 seasons in 2013-14, opens its home schedule against Idaho. The Reading Royals open their home season against Elmira while South Carolina hosts Wheeling at the North Charleston Coliseum.
For the first time in ECHL history, the game will go outside as the Toledo Walleye will host two games at Fifth Third Field as part of Winterfest. The Walleye will host Kalamazoo on Saturday, Dec. 27 and Fort Wayne on Saturday, Jan. 3.
Divisional alignments for the 2014-15 season and the format for the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs will be determined by the Board of Governors at a later date.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America ONE Sports, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrated 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 21 teams in 15 states in 2013-14.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• 541 players have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 22 in 2012-13.
• 29 ECHL players have made their NHL debuts in 2013-14: former Reading Royals Will Acton (Edmonton on Oct. 1), former Kalamazoo Wings left wing Darren Archibald (Vancouver on Oct. 25), former Columbia Inferno, Charlotte Checkers, Greenville Road Warriors and Reading Royals defenseman Julien Brouillette (Washington on Feb. 6), former Colorado Eagles defensemen Ben Chiarot (Winnipeg on Nov. 2) former San Francisco Bulls left wing Jamie Devane (Toronto on Oct. 5), former Elmira Jackals and Reading Royals left wing Brett Gallant (New York Islanders on April 8), former Idaho Steelheads left wing Luke Gazdic (Edmonton on Oct. 1), former Toledo Walleye center Luke Glendening (Detroit on Oct. 12), former Wheeling Nailers defenseman Alex Grant (Anaheim on Nov. 30), former Florida Everblades goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis (Tampa Bay on April 11), former Trenton Titans goaltender Cal Heeter (Philadelphia on April 12), former Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Magnus Hellberg (Nashville on Oct. 26), former Reading Royals and Ontario Reign goaltender Michael Hutchinson (Winnipeg on April 7), former Alaska Aces, Idaho Steelheads, Utah Grizzlies and Cincinnati Cyclones right wing Justin Johnson (New York Islanders on April 11), former Ontario Reign goaltender Martin Jones (Los Angeles on Dec. 3), former Greenville Road Warriors, Florida Everblades and Alaska Aces goaltender Connor Knapp (Buffalo on April 11), former Toledo Walleye forward Peter Leblanc (Washington on April 12), former Greenville Road Warriors goaltender Nathan Lieuwen (Buffalo on March 16) former Alaska Aces goaltender Joni Ortio (Calgary on Feb. 27), former Wheeling Nailers center Adam Payerl (Pittsburgh on April 6), former Wheeling Nailers defenseman Philip Samuelsson (Pittsburgh on Dec. 16), former Wheeling Nailers center Zach Sill (Pittsburgh on Nov. 16), former Toledo Walleye goaltender Kent Simpson (Chicago on Dec. 14), former Greenville Road Warriors goaltender Cam Talbot (New York Rangers on Oct. 24), former Cincinnati Cyclones center and 2010 Kelly Cup champion Mark Van Guilder (Nashville on March 30), former Gwinnett Gladiators goaltender Mark Visentin (Phoenix on April 12), former Reading Royals defenseman Patrick Wey (Washington on Dec. 7), former Cincinnati Cyclones forward Garrett Wilson (Florida on March 18) and former Ontario Reign goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (Pittsburgh on Oct. 11).
• Seven players have played in the ECHL and NHL in 2013-14: John Curry with Orlando and Minnesota, Kristers Gudlevskis with Florida and Tampa Bay, Magnus Hellberg with Cincinnati and Nashville, Michael Hutchinson with Ontario and Winnipeg, Connor Knapp with Greenville, Florida, Alaska and Buffalo, Joni Ortio with Alaska and Calgary and Patrick Wey with Reading and Washington.
• The ECHL has had 349 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.
• 285 ECHL players have played their first game in the last nine seasons for an average of more than 31 per year.
• ECHL had a record 93 players on NHL opening-day rosters in 2013-14, surpassing the 87 from 2012-13 and marking the 11th year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters.
• ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams in 2013-14, marking the 17th consecutive season that the league has affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 25 coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette,New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. It is the ninth consecutive season that there have been 11 or more coaches with an ECHL background working in the NHL.
• 27 former ECHL officials are scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2013-14 with referees Darcy Burchell, Francis Charron, Tom Chmielewski, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Trent Knorr, Mike Leggo, Dave Lewis, T.J. Luxmore, Wes McCauley, Jon McIsaac, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Graham Skilliter, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Matt MacPherson, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.
• ECHL was represented for the 13th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion in 2013 with Chicago Blackhaws assistant coach Jamie Kompon, players Sheldon Brookbank and Daniel Carcillo, vice president/assistant to the president Al MacIsaac, director of pro scouting Ryan Stewart and general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard. The ECHL was represented by 53 former players and 18 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the eighth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the 10th consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
• Former ECHL broadcasters working in the NHL include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, 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 works in the communications department for the Philadelphia Flyers.
• In the last 10 seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined 4500 with over call-ups involving more than 2,400 players and in 2013-14 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,706 fans per game in 2013-14, the highest single-season average since 1999-2000, and marking the 10th consecutive season and the 22nd time in the last 24 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.