The East Coast Hockey League will open 2003-04 on Friday, October 17 with 32 teams in 18 states playing a record 1,152 games, making it the largest league in professional hockey.
The 1,152 games will exceed the 1,044 games played in 2001-02 when the ECHL competed with 29 teams in 14 states. Each team will play a 72-game schedule comprised of 36 home games and 36 road games.
The ECHL welcomes nine new markets with the addition of the Anchorage Aces, the Bakersfield Condors, the Fresno Falcons, the Gwinnett (Georgia) Gladiators, the Idaho (Boise) Steelheads, the Las Vegas Wranglers, the Long Beach Ice Dogs, the San Diego Gulls, and the Texas (Beaumont) Wildcatters.
The ECHL will have new alignments for 2003-04 with 19 teams playing in two divisions in the Eastern Conference and 13 teams playing in two divisions in the Western Conference. The playoff format will be determined and voted upon by the Board of Governors at a later date.
2003-04 ECHL Divisional Alignment
Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies
South Carolina Stingrays
Mississippi Sea Wolves
Pensacola Ice Pilots
Las Vegas Wranglers
Long Beach Ice Dogs
San Diego Gulls
In 2002-03, the 27 members of the ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League and 22 of the 28 teams in the American Hockey League. There were 90 former ECHL players that played in the NHL in 2002-03, including 20 who made their NHL debut, and there have been 215 former ECHL players that have gone on to play in the NHL. There were more than 80 players in the ECHL on AHL contracts in 2002-03 and the ECHL had 450 call ups to the AHL in 2002-03, more than any other professional league.