PRINCETON, N.J. – Opening weekend for the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League continues Saturday with 10 games, including the Johnstown Chiefs opening their 19th consecutive ECHL season with a game against Pensacola at Cambria County War Memorial which was built in 1950 and immortalized in the movie “Slapshot”.
Saturday will also be the home opener for Reading which will host North Division rival Trenton at the Sovereign Center. The Royals set a team record with 7,315 for their game against the Titans on Mar. 4 which was one of three sellouts for Reading which surpassed 200,000 fans for the third time in five seasons.
South Carolina begins its 14th season at the North Charleston Coliseum on Saturday when it hosts Palmetto state rival Columbia. The Stingrays have reached the postseason in each of their 13 seasons, setting the ECHL record for appearances and consecutive appearances. South Carolina won the Kelly Cup in 1997 and 2001 and was the first team ever to win both the Brabham Cup and the Kelly Cup, accomplishing the feat in 1997.
The Alaska Aces will extend their Kelly Cup championship celebration to Saturday when they host Victoria while Phoenix and Utah continue their three-game season-opening series at US Airways Center. Cincinnati will host in-state rival Toledo on Saturday while Texas plays at Florida and Gwinnett visits Augusta.Idaho continues its season-opening road trip with a stop at Bakersfield while Charlotte and Wheeling conclude their series at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
The ECHL welcomes back Cincinnati Texas in 2006-07 and 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.
ECHLThe league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 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 24 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.