Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Opens 19th Season With 12 Games
PRINCETON, N.J. – The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League drops the puck for its 19th season with 12 games on Friday, including the raising of Kelly Cup and Brabham Cup championship banners in Alaska and ECHL hockey in Cincinnati for the first time since 2004.
The coast-to-coast league will play 900 games from Oct. 20-Apr. 7 with 25 teams in 15 states and British Columbia, Canada. The ECHL has raised its average attendance each of the last three seasons and averaged 4,372 per game a year ago which was the largest per-game average since 1999-2000. Nine teams averaged more than 5,000 per game for the first time since 1999-2000 and 13 of the 22 returning teams raised their attendance.
The Alaska Aces are expecting a standing-room-only crowd on Friday when the team will raise the banners recognizing its postseason and regular season championships. The Aces are only the second team in 18 years to win both the regular season point title and the postseason championship, and became the first team ever to defeat three teams that had 100 points during the regular season. Since joining the league as an expansion team in 2003-04, Alaska has sold out 16 games in the regular season and 18 of 22 games in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, including nine in a row last year to break its league record of seven consecutive postseason sellouts set in 2005.
The Cincinnati Cyclones will host the Pensacola Ice Pilots on Friday, marking the first game at U.S. Bank Arena since Mar. 26, 2004. Cincinnati requested and was granted a voluntary suspension for the past two seasons after advancing to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in two of its three seasons, including losing in Game 7 of the conference finals to champion Atlantic City in 2003.
Fresno will raise its Pacific Division championship banner at Save Mart Center on Friday when it hosts the Las Vegas Wranglers. After finishing first in the division in the regular season with a team record 43 wins and 100 points, the Falcons advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time and came within a goal of reaching the Kelly Cup Finals before losing 3-2 in double overtime of Game 7 to Alaska in the National Conference Finals.
Fans at Your Best Rate Financial Home Ice at The Arena at Gwinnett Center will watch the Gladiators raise its South Division and American Conference championship banners on Friday when they host South Carolina on Friday.
Looking for its fourth consecutive season-opening sellout crowd on Friday, Toledo will hoist its North Division championship banner to the rafters of the historic Toledo Sports Arena when in-state rival Dayton visits.
Under new ownership, Augusta begins its quest for its first back-to-back Kelly Cup Playoff berths since 2000 and 2001 when Columbia visits James Brown Arena.
After winning its first-ever playoff series last season, Bakersfield starts its trek toward a third consecutive trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs when it hosts Stockton on Friday. The Condors have raised their attendance each of the last three years and surpassed 200,000 for the first time since joining the ECHL as an expansion team in 2003-04.
Charlotte has new local ownership as it hosts Wheeling on Friday to open its second season at downtown Charlotte Bobcats Arena where it led the league with 10 sellouts a year ago. The Checkers increased their attendance more than 15.5 percent, drawing two crowds of more than 10,000 and four others in excess of 9,000, while advancing to Kelly Cup Playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 2001 and 2002.
Florida has never drawn less than 220,000 or averaged less than 6,200 per game in its first seven years, but for the first time since 2000 did not lead the league in attendance last season. The Everblades will take the first steps to regaining the ECHL attendance crown when they host Texas on Friday.
The combination of new ownership and new coach Rick Adduono are generating excitement in Long Beach which will host Idaho on Friday. The Ice Dogs reached the postseason each of the last two seasons and are looking for more playoff success with Adduono, who won Kelly Cup titles with South Carolina in 1997 and 2001.
A new affiliation with their National Hockey League neighbors, the Phoenix Coyotes, has the Phoenix RoadRunners excited for the new season which begins Friday against the Utah Grizzlies at US Airways Center.
New ownership with the New Jersey Devils of the NHL combined with new head coach and former team captain Rick Kowalsky has Trenton fans excited for the new season which begins Friday when Reading visits the Sovereign Bank Arena.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2006-07. There have been 303 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 47 in 2005-06. There have been 158 players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL in the past five seasons and there were 13 former ECHL coaches behind the benches of NHL teams in 2005-06.
The ECHL was represented for the sixth consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team, including Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette, who is the first ECHL coach to win the Stanley Cup.
The ECHL has affiliations with 23 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion. The ECHL has had more players called up to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined each of the past four seasons with 1,646 call ups involving almost 1,000 players.
The ECHL raised its average attendance for the third straight year in 2005-06 drawing 3,934,794 for 900 games which is an average of 4,372 per game, an increase of more than nine percent from 2004-05 and the largest per-game average since 1999-2000. Six teams surpassed 200,000 and nine teams averaged 5,000 per game for the first time since 1999-2000 as the league welcomed 39 sellout crowds and 13 of the 22 returning teams raised their average attendance from a year ago.
The Idaho Steelheads and the City of Boise will host the 15th Annual ECHL All-Star Game presented by Rbk Hockey on Jan. 17 and the 10th Annual ECHL All-Star Skills Competition presented by Rbk Hockey on Jan. 16 at Qwest Arena.
In 2005-06 the ECHL and its member teams contributed more than $2.3 million for charity and relief funds, including those benefiting victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while also making thousands of appearances by players, coaches, team personnel and mascots at schools, hospitals, libraries and charity functions.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.