PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced on Tuesday that the Board of Governors has unanimously approved the Expansion Membership application of the Kalamazoo Wings for admission to the ECHL.
Kalamazoo is scheduled to begin play in October when the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League will play its 22nd season, making it the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
The ECHL is finalizing the schedule for 2009-10 and will release it as soon as possible.
“We are proud to welcome Kalamazoo to the ECHL,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “The city has a long hockey tradition, solid community-based ownership and this will allow K-Wings fans to renew rivalries with Cincinnati and Toledo.”
“We are excited and look forward to building new relationships with our new business partners while maintaining the deep hockey tradition in our southwest Michigan,” said Paul L. Pickard, president of Wings Stadium and Kalamazoo Wings.
The K-Wings are owned by Stadium Management Company, who is also the owner and operator of Wings Stadium. Wings Stadium is home to the K-Wings while also hosting concerts, family shows and trade shows. The building capacity is 5,113 for hockey.
Kalamazoo will be a member of the North Division in the American Conference joining the Cincinnati Cyclones, the Elmira (N.Y.) Jackals, the Johnstown (Pa.) Chiefs, the Toledo (Ohio) Walleye and the Wheeling Nailers. Kalamazoo is 150 miles from Toledo which returns to the ice in 2009-10 in the brand-new Lucas County Downtown Arena.
Professional hockey has been played in Kalamazoo since 1974-75 including the last two seasons in the new International Hockey League, a reincarnation of the professional league that ceased operations in 2001 after more than 50 years. Kalamazoo ranked second in the league in attendance both years.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• 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 20 teams in 15 states and British Columbia in 2009-10.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2008-09 marking the 12th consecutive year for affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 407 former ECHL players have played in NHL.
• 151 former ECHL players have played their first NHL game in the last four seasons.
• Record 52 former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2008-09 and Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado), Wes O’Neill and Kevin Quick (Augusta and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders)..
• There were 72 former ECHL players on NHL opening-day rosters.
• ECHL has been represented on last eight Stanley Cup champions.
• Former ECHL coaches working as head coaches in the NHL are Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals and Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.. 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. Peter Laviolette, who began his coaching career with the Wheeling Nailers, led Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
• There are 15 assistant coaches in the NHL who were players or coaches in the ECHL.
• Eighteen former ECHL officials worked in the NHL in 2008-09 with referees David Banfield, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain 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 and Jay Sharrers. Barton, Joannette, Leggo, McCauley, Nowak, Pollock, Rooney and Sharrers all worked the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
• ECHL has affiliations with 23 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 19 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• In the last six seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,500 call-ups involving more than 1,300 players since 2002-03.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.