PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced on Monday that its 24th season will begin on Oct. 14 with eight games being played in six states from Alaska to Florida and continues on Oct. 15 with 10 more games in eight states.
The complete schedule is available at ECHL.com. Planning is well under way for the 2011-12 season and information on special team promotional nights will be available on individual team web sites. The schedule was finalized and released to teams on April 29.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that will have 20 teams in 16 states playing 720 games from Oct. 14, 2011 to March 31, 2012.
Divisional alignments for the 2011-12 season will be determined by the Board of Governors at a later date.
Wheeling celebrates its 20th season in 2011-12 while South Carolina plays its 19th season. Toledo returns for its 18th season while Florida celebrates its 14th year; Trenton its 13th season and Reading its 11th season in the ECHL.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL averaged 4,339 per game in 2010-11 which is the seventh consecutive season and the 19th time in the last 21 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.
The ECHL’s two newest members will open their home schedules during the second weekend of the season. The Colorado Eagles, who hold the minor league professional hockey record with 311 consecutive sellouts at the Budweiser Events Center, host Stockton on Oct. 21 while the Chicago Express, who play at the 9,400-seat Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill., play their first home game on Oct. 22 against Kalamazoo.
Alaska will raise its second Kelly Cup championship banner in team history and its third conference championship banner on Oct. 14 when it hosts Las Vegas. The Kalamazoo Wings will hoist their first Eastern Conference championship banner and their second North Division championship banner on Oct. 15 when they host Cincinnati.
The Greenville Road Warriors will celebrate their South Division championship when they open the season by hosting Wheeling on Oct. 14.
Ontario, which has led the ECHL in attendance each of the last two seasons, opens its season hosting Bakersfield on Oct. 14.
Stockton, which has averaged over 6,000 fans in each of its six seasons in the league, hosts the Colorado Eagles, who will be playing in their first ECHL game, on Oct. 14.
Utah opens its season at home for the first time since 2005 when it hosts Idaho on Oct. 14. The Grizzlies led the ECHL in 2010-11 with a 10.5 percent attendance increase from the previous season.
Elmira opens a two-game opening weekend series against Trenton on Oct. 14 while Florida hosts two games against Gwinnett on Oct. 14 and 15. South Carolina opens its season on Oct. 14 with a match-up against Reading.
Bakersfield will raise its second consecutive Pacific Division championship banner when it hosts Colorado on Oct. 15. The Toledo Walleye, who finished third in attendance last season after finishing second in 2009-10, will open their home season on Oct. 15 against the Chicago Express.
Idaho hosts the final home opener of the opening weekend on Oct. 15 against Utah.
Gwinnett opens its home schedule on Oct. 21 against Greenville while Las Vegas hosts Ontario at Orleans Arena.
Reading will host Cincinnati, Trenton hosts Florida and Wheeling is home against Elmira on Oct. 22. For the second consecutive season the Nailers will also play a portion of their home schedule in Johnstown with the first of 10 games at Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Nov. 18 against Trenton.
The Cincinnati Cyclones will be the final team to host their home opener when they welcome Chicago to U.S. Bank Arena on Nov. 5. Cincinnati, which saw a 5.8 percent in its attendance last season, has improved its attendance in each of the last four seasons.
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 19 teams in 14 states and British Columbia in 2010-11.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• 466 players have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 35 in 2009-10.
• 23 ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2010-11: former Idaho Steelheads goaltender and 2010 ECHL All-Star Richard Bachman (Dallas on Dec. 11), former Minnesota Wild defenseman Drew Bagnall (Minnesota on April 8), former Las Vegas Wranglers right wing Adam Cracknell (St. Louis on Dec. 15), former Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Mark Dekanich (Nashville on Dec. 18), former South Carolina Stingrays left wing Stefan Della Rovere (St. Louis on Dec. 1), former Phoenix RoadRunners center Andrew Desjardins (San Jose on Jan. 3), former Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender and 2007 ECHL All-Star Cedrick Desjardins (Cincinnati on Dec. 30), former Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies and Idaho Steelheads defenseman Brian Fahey (Washington on Oct. 16), former South Carolina Stingrays goaltender and 2010 ECHL All-Star Braden Holtby (Washington on Nov. 7), former Charlotte Checkers right wing Hugh Jessiman (Florida on Feb. 27), former Texas Wildcatters left wing Matt Kassian (Minnesota on Nov. 5), former Ontario Reign center Dwight King (Los Angeles on Nov. 17), former Utah Grizzlies goaltender Mikko Koskinen (New York Islanders on Feb. 8), former Phoenix RoadRunners and Utah Grizzlies goaltender Nathan Lawson (New York Islanders on Dec. 18), former Toledo Walleye goaltender Thomas McCollum (Detroit on March 30), former Trenton Titans defenseman Olivier Magnan (New Jersey on Oct. 22), former Trenton Devils center Brad Mills (New Jersey on Oct. 30), former South Carolina Stingrays center and two-time ECHL All-Star Travis Morin (Dallas on Jan. 26), former Johnstown Chiefs and Cincinnati Cyclones forward Chris Mueller (Nashville on Dec. 28), former Bakersfield Condors and Elmira Jackals goaltender and 2010 ECHL All-Star Timo Pielmeier (Anaheim on Feb. 19), former Alaska Aces right wing Ryan Reaves (St. Louis on Oct. 11), former Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays goaltender and 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs Most Valuable Player James Reimer (Tortonto on Dec. 20) and former Victoria Salmon Kings defenseman Yann Sauve (Vancouver on Feb. 15).
• 4 players played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2010-11: Mike Brodeur with Elmira and Ottawa, Thomas McCollum with Toledo and Detroit, Timo Pielmeier with Elmira and Anaheim and Yann Sauve with Victoria and Vancouver.
• The ECHL has had 274 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.
• 210 ECHL players have played their first game in the last six seasons for an average of 35 per year.
• ECHL had a record 79 players on NHL opening-day rosters in 2010-11, surpassing the 78 from 2009-10 and marking the eighth year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters.
• Every ECHL team has an affiliation with an NHL team in 2010-11 and the league has affiliations with 27 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 14th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 30 coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, New York Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and St. Louis Blues head coach Davis Payne. It is the sixth 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.
• 21 former ECHL officials are working as part of the NHL officiating team in 2010-11 with referees David Banfield, Francis Charron, Chris Ciamaga, 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 and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers..
• ECHL was represented for the 10th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion with Chicago Blackhawks assistant coaches Mike Haviland and John Torchetti, developmental goaltending coach Wade Flaherty, vice president/assistant to the president Al MacIsaac, general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard and scout Ryan Stewart. There were 35 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fifth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the seventh 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.
• 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.
• 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 1,500 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 and the league drew over 3 million fans for the 17th year in a row.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.