ECHL Opens Its 18th Season
With 25 Games

The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL will drop the puck for its 18th season this weekend with 10 games on Friday, 12 games on Saturday and three games on Sunday.

Welcoming new teams in Phoenix, Arizona; Stockton, California and West Valley City, Utah, the league will play 900 games, beginning October 21 and ending April 8, with 25 teams in 14 states and one Canadian province, British Columbia.

The ECHL released its playing schedule in June, but was forced to make two revisions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which made it impossible for the Mississippi Sea Wolves to play, and Hurricane Rita, which forced the Texas Wildcatters to suspend operations for 2005-06. The Sea Wolves have already begun preparations for their 10th anniversary season in 2006-07, including reopening an office in Biloxi, while the Wildcatters have announced that they will return to the ice at Ford Arena next year.

The two newest members, the Utah Grizzlies and the Phoenix RoadRunners, will play a home-and-home with Utah hosting Phoenix on Friday and Phoenix hosting Utah on Saturday. The Grizzlies play at The “E” Center, a state-of-the-art facility in West Valley City which gained international acclaim and exposure as the host venue for the ice hockey championships at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The RoadRunners play at America West Arena, the home of the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association in downtown Phoenix which has recently had a $70 million renovation.

The Trenton Titans will raise the banner to immortalize their 2005 Kelly Cup Championship on Saturday at the Sovereign Bank Arena when they host the Wheeling Nailers. The Pensacola Ice Pilots will commemorate their regular season Brabham Cup championship on Friday when they host the Greenville Grrrowl which eliminated the Ice Pilots from the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

The Alaska Aces will recognize their regular season division and conference titles on Friday as well as their postseason division title when they host the San Diego Gulls in the first of three games on opening weekend. Ted Dent, who was an assistant coach with Kelly Cup winner Trenton in 2004-05, makes his head coaching debut when the Columbia Inferno celebrates its third consecutive regular season division title as it opens its fifth season hosting the Johnstown Chiefs. The Gwinnett Gladiators, who raised their average attendance more than 20 percent in their second season in 2004-05, will host the Charlotte Checkers in a rematch of the conference semifinals which the Checkers won in four games. For the second year in a row, the defending American Conference Champion Florida Everblades, who have led the league in attendance each of its six seasons, will be raising banners for postseason division and conference titles as they host the Las Vegas Wranglers.

The Idaho Steelheads with new coach Derek Laxdal will host the Long Beach Ice Dogs in a division semifinals rematch which the Ice Dogs won in four games. The first ECHL team outside the United States, the Victoria Salmon Kings return for their second season visiting the Fresno Falcons and new coach Matt Thomas while the South Carolina Stingrays will travel to Augusta which will open its eighth ECHL season and has a new coach in Bob Ferguson. Longtime Ohio rivals Dayton and Toledo will meet at the historic Toledo Sports Arena on Friday and again on Saturday at the Nutter Center in Dayton to rekindle this great instate rivalry.

In addition to the championship celebration in Trenton, there are 11 other games scheduled for Saturday including the Stockton Thunder taking the ice for the first time in history when they visit the Fresno Falcons at Save Mart Center, which will host the 2006 ECHL All-Star Game presented by Bud Light on January 25. Victoria continues its season-opening road trip when it visits Bakersfield and Palmetto state rivals will get reacquainted when the Columbia Inferno visit the South Carolina Stingrays, who will open their 13th season at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Johnstown Chiefs open their 18th consecutive season in the ECHL on Saturday when they host the Reading Royals at Cambria County War Memorial where the legendary hockey movie “Slap Shot” was filmed in 1977. The Greenville Grrrowl and veteran ECHL coach John Marks will open their eighth season at the BI-LO Center when they host the Charlotte Checkers. Other games on Saturday have San Diego at Alaska, Long Beach at Idaho, Las Vegas at Florida and Gwinnett traveling to Pensacola.

Opening weekend will conclude on Sunday with Columbia traveling to Augusta, Long Beach wrapping up its series at Idaho and Utah playing again at Phoenix.

Friday, October 21
San Diego at Alaska 7:15
South Carolina at Augusta 7:05
Johnstown at Columbia 7:05
Las Vegas at Florida 7:30
Victoria at Fresno 7:00
Charlotte at Gwinnett 7:35
Long Beach at Idaho 7:10
Greenville at Pensacola 7:05
Dayton at Toledo 7:05
Phoenix at Utah 7:05

Saturday, October 22
San Diego at Alaska 2:05
Victoria at Bakersfield 7:00
Toledo at Dayton 7:00
Las Vegas at Florida 7:30
Stockton at Fresno 7:00
Charlotte at Greenville 7:05
Long Beach at Idaho 7:10
Reading at Johnstown 7:00
Gwinnett at Pensacola 7:05
Utah at Phoenix 7:11
Columbia at South Carolina 7:05
Wheeling at Trenton 7:35

Sunday, October 23
Columbia at Augusta 4:05
Long Beach at Idaho 7:10
Utah at Phoenix 5:00