I am pleased to officially welcome you as the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League celebrates its 24th season, making it the third-longest tenured professional league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
There has been a great deal of transition and change in the minor league hockey landscape over the past several seasons. As the economy continues to gradually recover and grow, the ECHL is well positioned to provide outstanding value for our fan base.
In addition to providing affordable family entertainment to more than 80 million fans since it began, ECHL teams have become a part of their communities including donating more than $20 million and countless hours to charity the last five years.
The ECHL has become an integral part of the professional hockey player development process as more than 460 players have gone on to play in the NHL after the ECHL including 23 in 2010-11. In addition to these players, countless officials, coaches and front office staff have moved on to the AHL and NHL. For the 2011-12 season, 15 of the 30 AHL head coaches and almost one quarter of the head coaches in the NHL have ECHL ties.
Since it began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the league has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 20 teams in 16 states in 2010-11. This season, we welcome our newest members, the Chicago Express and the Colorado Eagles., as well as the return of the Trenton Titans.
We congratulate Alaska on winning its second Kelly Cup championship, and for setting an ECHL postseason record by going 12-1 during the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
The ECHL has been represented on the last 11 Stanley Cup champions including in 2011 with Boston Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward, players Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder and Conn Smyth Award winner Tim Thomas, scout Tom McVie and radio broadcaster Dave Goucher. The ECHL had affiliations with 27 of the 30 teams in the NHL in 2010-11, marking the 14th consecutive year for affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. For the 22nd season in a row, the ECHL was represented on the AHL champion with six players and head coach Kurt Kleinendorst on the Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators
Thank you on behalf of the ECHL and its teams for your continued support and we hope that you and your family enjoy following your favorite team through what promises to be a fantastic ECHL season.