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Expansion Membership approved for Orlando

PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced on Tuesday that the Board of Governors has unanimously approved the Expansion Membership application of Orlando for admission to the ECHL.

Orlando will begin play in October 2012 when the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League will celebrate its 25th season, making it the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.

The Orlando membership is owned by Orlando Pro Hockey Operations, L.P., an entity controlled by Joe Haleski, Bob Ohrablo and Jason Siegel. The team will play its home games at Amway Center, which is also home to the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association, located in downtown Orlando.

Opened in the fall of 2010, the facility is owned and operated by the City of Orlando on behalf of the Central Florida Community. The Amway Center was designed to reflect the character of the community, meet the goals of the users and build on the legacy of sports and entertainment in Orlando. The building features a sustainable, environmentally-friendly design and unmatched technology featuring 1,100 digital monitors and the largest high-definition scoreboard in an NBA venue, and multiple premium amenities available to all patrons in the building.

“We are pleased to welcome Orlando to the ECHL,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “The combination of a strong market, a world-class sports facility in the Amway Center and a strong ownership group led by Joe Haleski, make this a very welcome addition to our southern geography. With decades of combined experience, this seasoned management group is well suited for the challenge of starting and operating a successful team in this major market over the long term.”

“On behalf of our partners, we are excited to be able to bring professional hockey back to Orlando and Central Florida,” said Bob Ohrablo, Managing Partner of Orlando Pro Hockey Operations, L.P. “We look forward to thousands of fans joining us in downtown Orlando for each home game at the Amway Center. We will provide an exciting team in a fun atmosphere at family-affordable prices.

“We would like to thank Mayor Buddy Dyer; the City Council; the ECHL, including Commissioner Brian McKenna and Board of Governors; the Amway Center management team; the Orlando Magic and the RDV Sportsplex for working with us to make this happen.”

“I am excited that the City of Orlando will once again be home to professional hockey,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “The new Amway Center was designed with the goal of adding a hockey team and features amenities specific to hockey. We look forward to showcasing the new state-of-the-art Amway Center to hockey fans here in Central Florida and giving them an experience they will never forget.”

“This is a big deal and I'm delighted the first puck drop is less than a year away,” said Orlando Venues Executive Director Allen Johnson. “Having professional hockey back in Orlando will undoubtedly bring much excitement, draw new audiences and generate additional revenue for the Amway Center.”

“I couldn't be more pleased to learn that Jason and his partners are bringing hockey back to the Orlando marketplace,” said Lou Lamoriello, President/CEO/General Manager of the New Jersey Devils. “In his six-plus years of employment with the Devils’ organization, Jason distinguished himself in every phase of his job responsibilities. Throughout our association, I was more than impressed with his work-ethic, leadership and integrity. I wish him well with his new venture.”

“Bob Ohrablo has a unique ability to learn a client's business, then develop and execute a sponsorship program which directly meets their goals and objectives,” said Howard Dolgon, Owner/President/CEO of the Syracuse Crunch. “He is a tireless worker who never settles for mediocrity or second best.”

Orlando is now accepting deposits for season tickets for the 2012-13 season. For more information, visit their website at www.orlandoprohockeyisback.com, or like them on Facebook at Orlando Pro Hockey and follow them on Twitter at OrlandoHockey.

 

Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts 

• Watch games live on America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.

• The ECHL celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 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 20 teams in 16 states in 2011-12.

• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.

469 players have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 23 in 2010-11.

Two ECHL players have made their NHL debut in 2011-12: former Toledo Storm and Reading Royals center Bracken Kearns (Florida on Oct. 20) and former Bakersfield Condors center Maxime Macenauer (Anaheim on Oct. 7).

• The ECHL has had 276 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.

• 213 ECHL players have played their first game in the last seven seasons for an average of more than 30 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 has affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 15th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.

• 32 coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the NHL in 2011-12 including Washington Capitals 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, Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel and St. Louis Blues head coach Davis Payne. 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.

• 22 former ECHL officials are scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2011-12 with referees David Banfield, Francis Charron, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, 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 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 Hampton Roads Admirals left wing Andrew Brunette became the first ECHL alum to play in 1,000 regular-season NHL games when he reached the milestone with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 1, 2011.

• 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 2011 NHL All-Star Game by Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, while former ECHL coaches Mike Haviland and Peter Laviolette served as coaches for the All-Star Game.  

• 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 and John Michael 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.

• ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the American Hockey League in 2011-12 and for the past 22 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.

• In the last seven seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,000 call-ups involving more than 1,600 players and in 2010-11 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.

• The ECHL averaged 4,339 fans per game in 2010-11, marking the seventh consecutive season and the 19th time in the last 21 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.

• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.