PRINCETON, N.J. – For the second year in a row the ECHL was the only minor professional hockey league to increase its attendance averaging 4,258 per game which is the highest average since 2005-06 and the second-highest average in the last eight seasons.
It is the fifth consecutive season and the 17th time in the last 19 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans. The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL drew over 3 million fans for the 16th year in a row and reached the 3 million mark in the fewest number of games since 2005-06.
Stockton led the league with 6,218 per game and 223,854 fans becoming the first team to lead the ECHL in attendance four years in a row since Florida led the league for a record five straight years from 2000-05. The Thunder have had 13 capacity crowds at the 9,737-seat Stockton Arena in their first four seasons.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League had 26 sellouts including record crowds in Bakersfield (8,929 on Nov. 29, 2008), Charlotte (12,398 on Feb. 21), Cincinnati (11,417 on Apr. 4), Ontario (9,659 on Mar. 7) and South Carolina (10,568 on Jan. 17) while Alaska tied its record for the eighth time with 6,451 on Feb. 27.
Elmira and Charlotte tied for the league lead with five sellouts while Idaho had four capacity crowds. The Jackals have had 19 sellouts in their first two seasons in the ECHL. Idaho leads the league the last six seasons with 42 sellouts followed by Charlotte with 38, Florida with 31 and Alaska with 22.
Cincinnati led the ECHL and ranked second in professional hockey with an attendance increase of more than 23 percent to 3,104 per game. The Cyclones have increased attendance by 68 percent since 2006-07 and they led professional hockey in 2007-08 with an increase of more than 36 percent.
Wheeling increased attendance more than three percent to 2,923 per game while Victoria raised attendance for the fourth season in a row to a team record 4,923 per game.
Ontario, which drew more than 27,000 for its final three home games, finished second in the league in its first season with 5,856 per game while Florida finished third with 5,633 per game. The Everblades have finished in the top three in attendance the last 10 years after finishing fourth in their first year.
Gwinnett drew over 200,000 for the third season in a row and finished fourth with 5,559 per game while Bakersfield was fifth with 5,545 per game and Charlotte was sixth with 5,311 per game. Reading finished seventh with 5,005 per game followed by South Carolina with 5,001 per game, Victoria with 4,923 per game and Alaska with 4,682 per game.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts• 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 15 states and British Columbia in 2009-10.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2008-09 marking the 12th consecutive year for affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 407 former ECHL players have played in NHL.
• 151 former ECHL players have played their first NHL game in the last four seasons.
• Record 52 former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2008-09 and eight players played in both the ECHL and the NHL: goaltenders Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Elmira, Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Wes O’Neill (Johnstown and Colorado), Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado) and Kevin Quick (Augusta, Elmira and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders).
• There were 72 former ECHL players on NHL opening-day rosters.
• ECHL has been represented on last nine Stanley Cup champions including 2009 with Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, player Ruslan Fedotenko, equipment managers Dana Heinze and Dave Zeigler, athletic trainers Chris Stewart and Scott Adams and scout Derek Clancey.
• Former ECHL coaches working as head coaches in the NHL are Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals and Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. 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. Peter Laviolette, who began his coaching career with the Wheeling Nailers, led Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
• There are 15 assistant coaches in the NHL who were players or coaches in the ECHL.
• Eighteen former ECHL officials worked in the NHL in 2008-09 with referees David Banfield, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain Hebert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh and linesmen Steve Barton, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak and Jay Sharrers. Barton, Joannette, Leggo, McCauley, Nowak, Pollock, Rooney and Sharrers all worked the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
• ECHL has affiliations with 23 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 20 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.• In the last six seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,500 call-ups involving more than 1,300 players since 2002-03.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.