Dear ECHL Fans,
As the ECHL drops the puck for its 19th season, I send warm greetings and best wishes from all your friends at the National Hockey League.
Our Leagues have had a terrific relationship for years. Of our 30 teams, 25 had affiliations with ECHL teams in 2005-06. More than 300 ECHL alumni have played in our League, with half of them making NHL debuts over the past five campaigns. The ECHL has had an alumnus on each of the past six NHL champions and, last June, Peter Laviolette became the first former ECHL coach to hoist the most cherished trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup.
The NHL was pleased to have the Stanley Cup visit 23 ECHL cities last season to help raise funds and awareness for those affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. We are delighted that the Texas Wildcatters are returning to the ice and we look forward to the Mississippi Sea Wolves’ return in 2007-08.
Congratulations to the Alaska Aces, who last year became only the second team in ECHL history to win the Brabham Cup and the Kelly Cup in the same season. The Aces’ outstanding performance provided the state of Alaska its first national professional sports championship in more than 25 years.
Hockey fans are the best fans in the world, and having enjoyed record-setting support from our fans last season, it was great to hear that the ECHL also raised its attendance for the third straight year. All the best for more of the same in 2006-07. Enjoy the season!
Gary B. Bettman
National Hockey League