The ECHL announced on Wednesday that its 26th season will begin on Friday, Oct. 18 with six games being played in six states from Florida to Alaska and continues on Saturday, Oct. 19 with 10 more games in eight states. Opening Weekend concludes on Sunday, Oct. 20 with one game.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that will have 22 teams in 15 states playing 792 games from Oct. 18, 2013 to April 13, 2014.
Wheeling celebrates its 22nd season in 2013-14 while South Carolina plays its 21st season. Toledo returns for its 20th season, Florida celebrates its 16th year, and Reading its 13th season in the ECHL. Alaska, Bakersfield, Gwinnett, Idaho and Las Vegas each celebrate their 11th ECHL season in 2013-14.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL averaged 4,695 fans per game in 2012-13, the highest single-season average since 1999-2000, and the ninth consecutive season and the 21st time in the last 23 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.
Opening Weekend is highlighted by the Reading Royals raising their first-ever Kelly Cup championship banner at Sovereign Center on Saturday, Oct. 19 as they host South Carolina. Gwinnett will celebrate its second consecutive South Division title as the Gladiators host Greenville on Friday, Oct. 18, while a pair of Sunshine State rivals meet at Germain Arena when the Florida Everblades host the Orlando Solar Bears. Wheeling also opens at home on Friday with a match-up against Elmira.
The Alaska Aces will raise their third consecutive Brabham Cup banner as ECHL regular-season champions on Oct. 18 in a rematch of the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals series agains San Francisco. Also on Opening Night, the Utah Grizzlies entertain Idaho at Maverik Center while Bakersfield hosts Colorado at Rabobank Arena.
Cincinnati, which has increased its attendance in each of the last six seasons, will celebrate its first North Division title since 2009 on Saturday, Oct. 19, hosting Wheeling at U.S. Bank Arena. Fort Wayne, which led the ECHL in attendance in 2012-13 with 7,583 per game, hosts Toledo in its home opener. Also on Saturday, the Evansville IceMen, who were seventh in their first ECHL season with 5,415 per game, host Kalamazoo in their home opener at Ford Center.
Stockton will raise its first-ever Western Conference championship banner to the rafters on Oct. 19 as the Thunder host Colorado. The Ontario Reign will celebrate their third Pacific Division title in five years the same night, hosting Bakersfield at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Also on Saturday, the Las Vegas Wranglers open their home season against Utah.
Idaho hosts its opener at Century Link Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 23 as the San Francisco Bulls visit Boise.
Colorado, which has sold out over 380 consecutive games at Budweiser Events Center, opens the home portion of its schedule on Friday, Oct. 25 against Idaho. Also on that night, Elmira hosts Reading at First Arena while Greenville opens at home against South Carolina.
Saturday, Oct. 26 sees four teams hosting home openers with Kalamazoo entertaining Evansville, Orlando welcoming Gwinnett, South Carolina hosting Greenville and Toledo taking on Wheeling.
The San Francisco Bulls are the final team to host a home opener on Friday, Nov. 8 when Bakersfield visits the Cow Palace.
Once again in 2013-14, there are several out-of-conference match-ups featured on the schedule. Florida visits Ontario on Oct. 25 and 27, Bakersfield on Oct. 26 and Las Vegas on Oct. 29 while Fort Wayne travels to Las Vegas for three games on Nov. 1, 2 and 3. Colorado heads east for games against Orlando on Dec. 4 and 8 and Florida on Dec. 6 and 7 and Utah has a three-game series at Orlando on Jan. 2, 3 and 4.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America One Sports, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2012-13 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 23 teams in 16 states in 2012-13.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• 512 players have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 23 in 2011-12.
• 22 ECHL players made their NHL debuts in 2012-13: former Trenton Titans right wing Jason Akeson (Philadelphia on April 27), former Gwinnett Gladiators forward Matt Anderson (New Jersey on Jan. 29), former Stockton Thunder center and 2011 ECHL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Mark Arcobello (Edmonton on Feb. 6), former Utah Grizzlies defenseman and 2010 ECHL All-Star Victor Bartley (Nashville on March 8), former Charlotte Checkers, Wheeling Nailers, Pensacola Ice Pilots, Florida Everblades and Augsuta Lynx left wing Patrick Bordeleau (Colorado on Jan. 19), former Cincinnati Cyclones forward Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay on Jan. 19), former Trenton Devils goaltender Jeff Frazee (New Jersey on March 9), former South Carolina Stingrays and Reading Royals goaltender and 2013 ECHL All-Star Philipp Grubauer (Washington on Feb. 27), former Cincinnati Cyclones left wing Kevin Henderson (Nashville on April 19), former Toledo Walleye goaltender Carter Hutton (Chicago on April 27), former Trenton Titans defenseman Matt Konan (Philadelphia on April 25), former Ontario Reign and Orlando Solar Bears goaltender Darcy Kuemper (Minnesota on Feb. 12), former Toledo Walleye defenseman Brian Lashoff (Detroit on Jan. 21), former Toledo Walleye goaltender Petr Mrazek (Detroit on Feb. 7), former Las Vegas Wranglers, Toledo Walleye and Idaho Steelheads defenseman Steve Oleksy (Washington on March 5), former Alaska Aces right wing Anthony Peluso (Winnipeg on Feb. 12), former South Carolina Stingrays center Steve Pinizzotto (Vancouver on March 14), former Ontario Reign right wing Jon Rheault (Florida on March 5), former Reading Royals left wing Antoine Roussel (Dallas on Feb. 1), former Florida Everblades right wing Jared Staal (Carolina on April 25), former Wheeling Nailers center and 2011 ECHL All-Star Ben Street (Calgary on Feb. 9) and former Toledo Storm right wing and 2007 ECHL All-Star Jamie Tardif (Boston on Feb. 2).
• The ECHL has had 320 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.
• 256 ECHL players have played their first game in the last eight seasons for an average of 32 per year.
• ECHL had a record 87 players on NHL opening-day rosters in 2012-13, surpassing the 81 from 2011-12 and marking the 10th year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters.
• ECHL had affiliations with 25 of the 30 NHL teams in 2012-13, marking the 16th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 28 coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and 2011 Jack Adams Award winner Dan Bylsma, New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel. It is the seventh 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.
• 26 former ECHL officials worked as part of the NHL officiating team in 2012-13 with referees Darcy Burchell, Francis Charron, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Trent Knorr, Mike Leggo, Dave Lewis, T.J. Luxmore, Wes McCauley, Jon McIsaac, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Graham Skilliter, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Matt MacPherson, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.
• ECHL was represented for the 12th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion in 2012 with Los Angeles Kings assistant coach Jamie Kompon, players Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Jonathan Quick, manager of communications/broadcasting Jeremy Zager and scouts Steve Greeley, Mark Mullen and Mark Yannetti. Quick was named the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the second consecutive year a former ECHL player won the award.. There were 43 former players and 13 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the seventh year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the ninth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
• 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 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 works in the communications department for the Philadelphia Flyers.
• In the last nine seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined 4,000 with over call-ups involving more than 2,100 players and in 2012-13 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,695 fans per game in 2012-13, the highest single-season average since 1999-2000, and marking the ninth consecutive season and the 21st time in the last 23 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.