ECHL’s 28th season faces off this weekend


ECHL season faces off on Friday

The ECHL’s 28th season begins on Friday with 11 games, continues on Saturday with 13 games and concludes with three games on Sunday.

Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that has 28 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province playing 1,008 games from Oct. 16, 2015 to April 9, 2016. The ECHL is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.

The 2015-16 season features three new teams to the ECHL as the Adirondack Thunder, Manchester Monarchs and Norfolk Admirals enter their first season as ECHL Members.

Two of the new teams will host their first ECHL games on Opening Night with the Monarchs hosting Brampton and the Admirals entertaining Wheeling. The Thunder play their first ECHL game on the road, visiting their in-state rivals, the Elmira Jackals. Also on Friday, the Allen Americans will raise their 2015 Kelly Cup championship banner when they host the Quad City Mallards. Elsewhere around the League, Kalamazoo hosts Fort Wayne, Atlanta visits Florida, Toledo is at Indy, Tulsa entertains Wichita, Utah travels to Colorado, Idaho hosts Rapid City and Missouri plays the first of three straight games at Alaska.

Saturday’s action is highlighted by six teams opening their home schedule including a playoff rematch in South Carolina as the defending Eastern Conference champion Stingrays host Reading. South Carolina defeated the Royals 4 games to 3 in the East Division Semifinals in April. Other home openers on Saturday include Orlando hosting Greenville, Fort Wayne entertaining Kalamazoo, Cincinnati hosting Toledo and Evansville taking on Indy.

New faces behind the benches

Eight of the 28 ECHL teams will have a new coach in charge as the 2015-16 season gets underway.

Cail MacLean returns to the ECHL as head coach of Adirondack. MacLean posted a 78-48-18 record in two seasons as head coach of South Carolina from 2009-11.

After spending the previous two seasons as an assistant coach in Kalamazoo, Colin Chaulk gets his first head coaching job as the new man in charge in Brampton.

In Greenville, Brian Gratz is the new head coach of the Swamp Rabbits after serving as the club’s assistant coach a season ago, while Neil Graham moves to the head coaching spot in Idaho after serving as the Steelheads’ assistant coach for the previous two seasons.

Richard Seeley, a former defenseman in Manchester during the team’s stay in the American Hockey League, returns to the city as head coach for the Monarchs and in Norfolk Eric Veilleux assumes his first professional head coaching position with the Admirals.

Anthony Noreen joins Orlando as the new head coach for the Solar Bears after leading Youngstown of the United States Hockey League for four seasons while in Tulsa, Jason Christie takes over as head coach after four seasons with the Ontario Reign.

Approaching milestones

Tulsa head coach Jason Christie enters the 2015-16 season on the verge of setting a new ECHL record for most career wins. Christie is 483-282-98 in 12 seasons with Peoria, Utah and Ontario, and trails 2012 ECHL Hall of Fame inductee John Marks by just eight wins. Marks won 491 games in 15 seasons with Charlotte, Greenville, Pensacola and Augusta. Christie ranks fourth in League history with 863 games coached, and will move into second place on that list by the end of the season.

Kalamazoo goaltender Joel Martin ranks 12th in ECHL history with 122 wins in six seasons with the K-Wings, Columbus (Ga.), Trenton and Elmira. He needs nine wins to move into the top 10 in league history.