It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 18th season for the Premier “AA” Hockey League.
The past three seasons have seen the ECHL establish its footprint across North America while continuing to increase its visibility and presence throughout the world of hockey. The league welcomes Phoenix, Stockton and Utah and will play with 25 teams in 14 states and one Canadian province in 2005-06.
The ECHL unfortunately will compete this season without the Mississippi Sea Wolves and the Texas Wildcatters, who were both unable to compete in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Both teams have announced plans to return for 2006-07.
The ECHL congratulates the 2005 Kelly Cup Champion Trenton Titans, who defeated Florida after the Everblades advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals for the second consecutive season. We also congratulate the Pensacola Ice Pilots, who were almost forced to suspend operations for 2004-05 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, but who elected to play and actually increased average attendance and won the Brabham Cup.
The ECHL increased its regular season attendance for the second straight year in 2004-05, averaging more than 4,000 fans per game, including 44 sellouts, and surpassing four million fans for the seventh time in league history.
The ECHL invites you to Fresno, California for the 14th Annual ECHL All-Star Game Presented By Bud Light. Hosted by the Fresno Falcons at Save Mart Center, the Skills Competition is January 24 and the All-Star Game is January 25. Showcasing the top young players in the league, the game will be televised live for the fifth straight year and was available to more than 30 million homes in 2005.
There are eight former ECHL coaches who are head coaches in the American Hockey League, including Mike Haviland, who coached Trenton to the Kelly Cup Championship in 2005. There are 12 AHL assistant coaches with ECHL ties including Pat Bingham, Derek Clancey, Scott White and Bob Woods, who were all head coaches in the ECHL in 2004-05.
The ECHL remains the leading source of talent for the American Hockey League. The ECHL has affiliations with 21 of the 27 teams in the AHL and the ECHL has had more players called up to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined in the last three years. The Philadelphia Phantoms had eight players and an assistant coach with ECHL experience, marking the 16th consecutive year that the ECHL was represented on the Calder Cup Champions.
Carolina Hurricanes and United States Olympic head coach Peter Laviolette began his career in the ECHL and led Wheeling to the conference finals, and there are 12 assistant coaches in the National Hockey League with ties to the ECHL, including Anaheim assistant coach Dave Farrish, who won the Brabham Cup with Pensacola in 2004-05 and Louisiana in 2001-02.
There have been 264 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL. There were 115 former ECHL players who played in the NHL in 2003-04 and every NHL team had a former ECHL player take the ice. There have already been eight players in 2005-06 that have made their first NHL appearance since playing in the ECHL: Adam Berkhoel (Atlanta on October 15), Derek Boogaard (Minnesota on October 5), Michael Garnett (Atlanta on October 12), Timo Helbling (Tampa Bay on October 5), Colin Hemingway (St. Louis on October 19), Raitis Ivanans (Montreal on October 8), George Parros (Los Angeles on October 5) and Mark Streit (Montreal on October 8). Forty former ECHL players made their first NHL appearance in 2003-04, including 11 who played in both the ECHL and the NHL. There has been an ECHL player on the team that has won the Stanley Cup in each of the past five years it has been awarded.
The ECHL continues its commitment to providing fans with affordable quality entertainment in a family environment as we continue to “Focus On The Fan”.
On behalf of the ECHL 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.