PRINCETON, N.J. – It will be a historic game on Friday when the Alaska Aces host the Florida Everblades in the first of three games at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
The distance from Estero to Anchorage is 4,926 miles which is the greatest distance between two North America professional opponents. The longest NHL road trip occurred in 1905, when the Dawson City (Yukon) Klondikers traveled 4,400 miles to play the Ottawa (Ontario) Silver Seven in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Everblades played the Texas Wildcatters in Beaumont last weekend and then flew from Houston to Anchorage, traveling 18 1/2 hours, on Monday. Florida’s trip was a lot easier than that of the Klondikers, who traveled the first 400 miles by dogsled and on foot in temperatures as low as minus-20. After 23 days of travel, Dawson City was swept in two games by a combined score of 31-5.
History will repeat itself in a manner of speaking when Alaska travels to Florida for games on Nov. 28, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Travel isn’t anything new to the Aces, who begin each road trip with a 3 1/2-hour flight to Seattle and average around 70,000 miles on the road each season. The Everblades also spend their fair share of time on the road and will travel 26,206 miles this season, primarily by bus.
The previous longest trip for ECHL opponents was 4,444 miles, the distance from Anchorage to Trenton, N.J., home of the then Titans now Devils who beat the Aces in the conference finals on their way to the Kelly Cup title in 2005. Alaska set the record for longest trip between opponents in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2006 with 4,396 miles, the distance from Gwinnett, Ga., home of the Gladiators, to Anchorage.
Alaska has reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of its first four seasons since joining the league as an expansion team in 2003-04 and the Aces have advanced to the conference finals each of the last three seasons, winning the Kelly Cup in 2006. Florida has reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of its first nine seasons and has advanced to the conference finals three times in the last four years while reaching the Kelly Cup Finals in 2004 and 2005.
Friday’s game will be the season opener for the Aces, who had 12,113 fans for two preseason games against Texas, raising more than $103,000 for the Alaska Chapter of the American Cancer Society and Breast Cancer Focus, Inc. Alaska, which had a standing-room-only crowd of 6,451 for their home opener last season, have raised their average attendance by 18.8 percent since joining the league. Since 2003-04, the Aces have had 36 sellouts at Sullivan Arena and 15 of those have been crowds of 6,451, including six in the regular season.
Florida is averaging 7,283 at the 7,080-seat Germain Arena after opening its 10th Anniversary season with 7,462 on Oct. 19 and 7,104 on Oct. 20. The Everblades have never averaged less than 6,200 and they led the league in attendance for a record five straight years from 2000-05 while finishing second each of the last two seasons.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League, marking the 11th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 333 former ECHL players have played in NHL.
• There were 69 former ECHL players on NHL opening-day rosters and there have been 188 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past six seasons.
• Twenty-six former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2006-07, including two who played in both the ECHL and the NHL as goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji played for Reading and Los Angeles while defenseman Bryan Young skated for Stockton and Edmonton. Dave McKee played for Augusta and dressed for five games as the backup goaltender for Stanley Cup champion Anaheim.
• Four former ECHL players have made their NHL debut this season: former Johnstown Chiefs and Fresno Falcons goaltender Dmitri Patzold (San Jose on Oct. 7), former San Diego goaltender Tyler Weiman (Colorado on Oct. 4), former Charlotte right wing Craig Weller (Phoenix on Oct. 4) and former Phoenix RoadRunners center Daniel Winnik (Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 4).
• Record 51 former ECHL players played their first NHL game in 2005-06.
• ECHL has been represented on last seven Stanley Cup champions.
• 14 Former ECHL coaches on NHL staffs.
• ECHL has been represented on last 18 Calder Cup champions.
• ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 18 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• The Stockton Thunder and the City of Stockton will host the 16th Annual ECHL Chase Chevrolet All-Star Game at Stockton Arena on Jan. 23, 2008 and the 11th Annual ECHL All-Star Skills Competition presented by Jackson Rancheria and Bud Light on Jan. 22, 2008.
• In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.
ECHL and its member teams contributed nearly $3 million for charity and relief funds in 2006-07.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.