Dear ECHL Fans,
It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the 19th season of the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League.
The past four years have seen the ECHL continue to increase its visibility and presence throughout the world of hockey as its footprint across North America becomes even more established.
We congratulate the Alaska Aces on becoming only the second team in history to win both the regular season Brabham Cup championship and the postseason Kelly Cup championship while bringing the state of Alaska its first professional championship since 1980. The Aces sold out both games in the Finals and the last nine games of the playoffs to break their ECHL record of seven consecutive postseason sellouts set in 2005.
For the third straight year the ECHL raised its average attendance in 2005-06 and 13 of the 22 returning teams raised their attendance as well. League attendance increased more than nine percent to 4,372 per game, the largest per-game average since 1999-2000, and nine teams averaged more than 5,000 per game for the first time since 1999-2000.
The ECHL along with the Idaho Steelheads and the City of Boise hope you will be able to join us at Qwest Arena on Jan. 17 for the 15th Annual ECHL All-Star Game and on Jan. 16 for the 10th Annual ECHL Skills Competition, both presented by Rbk Hockey.
Last year the ECHL and its member teams continued to make a difference in local communities, with more than $2.3 million raised for charity and relief funds, including those benefiting victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There were also thousands of personal appearances by players, coaches, team personnel and mascots at schools, hospitals, libraries and charity functions in our 25 markets.
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. Our relationship with the best league in the world grows stronger every year as evidenced by affiliations with 20 or more NHL teams every season since 1997-98. We have seen 303 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 47 in 2005-06 and 158 in the last five seasons. The advancement isn’t just on the ice as there were 13 former ECHL coaches and countless other former ECHL personnel in the NHL in 2005-06.
There are nine former ECHL coaches who are head coaches in the American Hockey League and there are 13 assistant coaches with ECHL experience in the AHL. Bruce Boudreau coached Hershey to the AHL title in 2006, marking the 17th consecutive season the ECHL was represented on the league winner. Boudreau becomes the first coach to win both the Calder Cup and the Kelly Cup, having led Mississippi to the ECHL title in 1999. The ECHL has had affiliations with more than 20 teams in the AHL each of the past six years and there have been more players called up to the AHL from the ECHL than all other professional leagues combined each of the past four seasons with 1,646 call ups involving almost 1,000 players.
The official league web site ECHL.com last season had more than 2,400 stories viewed by millions of fans from across the globe. We hope that you will visit us online at ECHL.com for the most current information, including up-to-date scores, and to purchase tickets to watch your favorite team.
The ECHL continues to “Focus on the Fan” and remains committed to providing affordable quality entertainment in a family environment.
On behalf of the League and its Members, I thank you for your continued support and hope that you and your family enjoy the upcoming season which we are sure will be the best ever.