The ECHL will open its 22nd season on Thursday when the Reading Royals host the Kalamazoo Wings, who are the newest member of the Premier AA Hockey League, at the Sovereign Center.
The league will play seven games on Friday and nine games on Saturday before concluding opening weekend with four games on Sunday.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that will have 20 teams in 15 states and British Columbia playing 720 games from Thursday to Apr. 3, 2010.
The Johnstown Chiefs have been a member of the league for all 22 seasons playing at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena while the Wheeling Nailers return for its 18th season and the Charlotte Checkers and the Kelly Cup champion South Carolina Stingrays each celebrate their 17th year. Toledo returns for its 16th season while the Florida Everblades celebrate their 12th year and Trenton its 11th season in the ECHL.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL is the only minor professional hockey league to increase average attendance each of the last two seasons. The ECHL averaged 4,258 per game in 2008-09 which is the highest average since 2005-06 and the second-highest average in the last eight years. It is the fifth consecutive season and the 17th time in the last 19 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans and the league drew over 3 million fans for the 16th year in a row and reached the 3 million mark in the fewest number of games since 2005-06.
The ECHL returns to Toledo following a two-year absence which allowed construction of the new state-of-the-art Lucas County Arena. The Walleye have sold more than 2,400 season tickets and are projecting capacity crowds when they host the Florida Everblades on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the 7,500-seat facility.
South Carolina will raise its record third Kelly Cup championship banner and its third conference championship banner on Friday when it hosts the Wheeling Nailers. The Alaska Aces will hoist their second National Conference championship banner and their fourth West Division championship banner on Friday when they host Victoria. The Stingrays set a team record for largest crowd with 10,568 on Jan. 17 while Alaska tied its regular season record for the eighth time with 6,451 on Feb. 27. The capacity for Sullivan Arena was increased during the Kelly Cup Playoffs and the Aces had back-to-back standing-room-only crowds of 6,610 for Games 6 and 7 of the Finals.
The Idaho Steelheads host the Stockton Thunder on Friday, Saturday and Sunday while the Bakersfield Condors will host the Ontario Reign on Friday and Saturday. Bakersfield has drawn over 200,000 fans each of the last five seasons while Idaho has led the league the last six seasons with 42 sellouts.
Las Vegas will host Utah and Elmira will host Cincinnati on Friday while Johnstown will open on Saturday when Cincinnati visits the historic Cambria County War Memorial.
Trenton will open its season on Friday and Saturday when the Devils host Kalamazoo while Gwinnett will host Wheeling on Saturday and Sunday.
The Ontario Reign, the City of Ontario and Citizens Business Bank Arena will host the 18th Annual ECHL All-Star Game on Jan. 20, 2010 and the 13th Annual All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 19, 2010.
ECHL Coaches Mixture of Fresh Faces, Veterans
Thirteen of the 20 coaches in the ECHL return for the same team as last season while six take the reins for the first time. The 20th is Nick Vitucci who returns behind the bench in Toledo following a two-year hiatus while the Walleye built their new arena.
Cail MacLean begins his first season as head coach of South Carolina after working as an assistant coach for the Kelly Cup winner in 2008-09. MacLean finished his 11-year playing career in 2007-08 with South Carolina after three seasons with the club. He ranks in the Top 20 on the team career list in goals, assists and points and in the ECHLs Top 20 with 224 goals over nine seasons with Jacksonville, Reading, Trenton and South Carolina.
Brent Thompson enters his first season as head coach in Alaska after four seasons as an assistant with the Aces American Hockey League affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, and one year as a player/assistant with Colorado in the Central Hockey League. Originally drafted by Los Angeles in the second round (39th overall) in the 1989 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Thompson played six seasons in the NHL from 1991-97 amassing 11 points (1g-10a) and 352 penalty minutes in 121 regular season games with Los Angeles, Phoenix and Winnipeg.
Jeff Pyle returns for his seventh season as head coach of Gwinnett and his 11th year in the ECHL. He has led the Gladiators to the Kelly Cup Playoffs all six seasons and has a career record of 385-256-75 to rank third all-time in both wins and games coached. Pyle was selected to three consecutive All-Star Games from 2004-06 which ties him with Davis Payne, Chris Cichocki and Glen Gulutzan for the most selections.
Derek Wilkinson in Charlotte and Marty Raymond in Bakersfield are both back for their sixth full season. Wilkinson is 194-161-34 with Charlotte which gives him more wins than any other coach in Checkers history. Wilkinson has guided Charlotte to the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of his first five seasons tying the team record for consecutive postseason appearances. Raymond led the Condors to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the fifth straight year in 2008-09 while improving his record to 186-144-47 behind the Condors bench. Bakersfield had a winning record for the fourth time in his five seasons behind the bench in 2008-09.
Greg Puhalski returns for his second full season as head coach in Wheeling while Rick Kowalsky is back for his fourth season with Trenton. In his first season in 2008-09, Puhalski helped the Nailers finish with 29 more points than in 2007-08 which was the biggest improvement in the league. The upswing also was also responsible for Puhalskis 2009 All-Star Game selection and the Nailers securing a Kelly Cup Playoffs berth for the first time since 2006. Kowalsky presided over the second-best upswing in the standings as the Devils improved upon their 2007-08 total by 22 points to advance to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the eighth time in 10 years. For his efforts Kowalsky was presented with the John Brophy Award, given annually to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his teams success.
Mark Morrison begins his fourth season as head coach of Victoria while Matt Thomas is back for his second as head coach in Stockton. Both were selected for a second time as National Conference coaches for the 2009 ECHL All-Star Game. Morrison guided the Salmon Kings to a third-place finish in the National Conference and the Division Finals in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Victoria had the second-longest winning streak in ECHL history winning 15 games from Dec. 6, 2008 to Jan. 10, 2009. Thomas led the Thunder past regular season division winner Ontario in the Pacific Division Semifinals for the clubs first playoff series victory since 2003. He has led his teams to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of his five seasons and is 201-114-44 in the regular season.
Derek Laxdal begins his fifth season as head coach in Idaho. He is 169-91-28 in the regular season and 19-18 in the Kelly Cup Playoffs as the Steelheads have won 40 games, including a team record 44 wins in 2008-09, and reached the postseason each of his first four seasons. Idaho captured the Kelly Cup championship in his second season in 2006-07 after going 43-21-8 in 2005-06 to set team records for wins and points (94).
Chuck Weber returns for his fourth year as head coach in Cincinnati. He has led the Cyclones to the Kelly Cup Playoffs all three years where he is 30-17 with back-to-back trips to the conference finals. Weber is 133-67-16 in his first three seasons which ranks him fourth all-time among ECHL coaches in wins during the start of their career. In his second season in 2007-08 the Cyclones won the Kelly Cup and Brabham Cup championships making the 35 year old only the third coach in 20 years to win both the regular season and postseason titles.
Nick Bootland in Kalamazoo and Nick Vitucci in Toledo are both at the helm of teams new to the ECHL for 2009-10. Bootland is in his second year as head coach of the K-Wings, who played in the International Hockey League in 2008-09. Bootland played two seasons in the ECHL for Cincinnati from 2001-03 and had 98 points (44g-54a) and 216 penalty minutes in 114 regular season games and 18 points (10g-8a) and 21 penalty minutes in 18 Kelly Cup Playoff games. He helped the Cyclones reach the conference finals in 2003 where they lost in to eventual Kelly Cup champion Atlantic City in seven games. Vitucci played 14 seasons in the ECHL and is the leagues all-time regular season wins leader. He was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2008 and his five ECHL championships are the most in league history. He coached the Toledo Storm from 2004-07 before the team took a voluntary suspension while the Lucas County Arena was being constructed. Vitucci is 140-104-21 in the regular season and led Toledo to the Kelly Cup Playoffs three years in a row from 2004-07, the first time the team had reached the postseason three straight seasons since 1997-99. He was named ECHL Coach of the Year in 2004-05 after Toledo finished 41-26-5., begins his first season as head coach with the Walleye.
Returning for his third year as head coach in Elmira is Steve Martinson, who is 80-50-14 and has guided the team to a Kelly Cup Playoff berth in each of the Jackals first two seasons. Martinson has never missed the postseason in 14 years as a coach and he won five championships in the West Coast Hockey League and one title in the United Hockey League.
Coaches returning for their second season are Malcolm Cameron in Florida and Karl Taylor in Ontario. Cameron led the Everblades to a 49-17-5 mark and their second Brabham Cup championship as well as the teams 11th-consecutive playoff appearance since entering the league in 1998-99. Cameron, who coached in the ECHL All-Star Game in 2007 and 2008, is 257-124-50 in six ECHL seasons. Taylor, meanwhile, pushed the Reign to a 38-29-6 record and the Pacific Division regular season title in the clubs inaugural season. Taylor was head coach of Reading for three seasons from 2005-08. The Royals were 112-82-22, advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoffs two times and had more than 100 call ups to the AHL. Taylor was selected to coach the American Conference in the 2006 ECHL All-Star Game, becoming the sixth first-year coach since 1996 to step behind the bench for the midseason event.
Jeff Flanagan starts his first season as head coach with Johnstown. He was head coach for Gardena in Italy which finished 18-11-3 and led the league with 4.80 goals per game en route to the semifinals in 2008-09. He was associate coach of Basingstoke in the English Premier League in 2004-05 and was an assistant coach for Reading in 2006-07. He played three seasons at the University of Guelph helping the Gryphons capture the CIS National Championship in 1996-97.
Kevin Colley, who is the youngest coach in the ECHL at 30 years old, begins his second season as head coach in Utah after a 28-28-16 season and an appearance in the Kelly Cup Playoffs in 2008-09.
Larry Courville is in his first full season as head coach for the Reading Royals. He took over for Jason Nobili on Jan. 6, 2009 and led the Royals to a 15-19-3 record in their final 38 games. Courville played six seasons in the ECHL and had 96 points (36g-60a) and 264 penalty minutes in 190 regular season games for Johnstown and Reading. He was the first inductee into the Reading Eagle Wall of Honor which celebrates members of the organization who have made distinctive contributions to the success of the team.
Ryan Mougenel is in his first year as head coach of Las Vegas after working the last four years as an assistant coach. The 33 year old had 105 points (46g-59a) and 271 penalty minutes in 180 regular season games with Atlantic City, Chesapeake, Hampton Roads, and Jackson and helped Atlantic City win the Kelly Cup championship in 2003.
ECHL Kelly Cup Finalists History
Here is a look at how the Kelly Cup finalists did the following season and how the Kelly Cup winner began the season that it won the championship.
DNQ Did Not Qualify
DQF Division Quarterfinals
DSF Division Semifinals
DF Division Finals
CWC Conference Wild Card
CQF Conference Quarterfinals
CF Conference Finals
KCF Kelly Cup Finals
2009 Finalists South Carolina defeated Alaska, 4 games to 3
2008 Finalists Cincinnati defeated Las Vegas, 4 games to 2
The Next Year Cincinnati 41-26-5 (1st North, CF), Las Vegas 34-31-8 (2nd Pacific, CF)
2007 Finalists Idaho defeated Dayton, 4 games to 1
The Next Year Idaho 40-22-10 (2nd West, CQF), Dayton 29-31-12 (5th North, DSF)
2006 Finalists Alaska defeated Gwinnett, 4 games to 1
The Next Year Alaska 49-16-7 (1st West, CF), Gwinnett 41-24-7 (3rd South, DSF)
2005 Finalists Trenton defeated Florida, 4 games to 2
The Next Year Trenton 31-36-5 (5th North, DQF), Florida 48-20-4 (2nd South, DF)
2004 Finalists Idaho defeated Florida, 4 games to 1
The Next Year Idaho 42-23-7 (3rd West, DSF), Florida 42-20-10 (2nd South, KCF)
2003 Finalists Atlantic City defeated Columbia, 4 games to 1
The Next Year Atlantic City 47-19-6 (2nd Northern, DSF), Columbia 44-20-8 (1st Southern, DSF)
2002 Finalists Greenville defeated Dayton, 4 games to 0
The Next Year Greenville 28-36-8 (5th Southeast, DSF), Dayton 24-38-10 (7th Northwest, DNQ)
2001 Finalists South Carolina defeated Trenton, 4 games to 1
The Next Year South Carolina 39-26-7 (4th Southeast, CWC), Trenton 46-16-10 (1st Northeast, DF)
2000 Finalists Peoria defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 2
The Next Year Peoria 45-17-10 (1st Northwest, CF), Louisiana 42-24-6 (1st Southwest, CF)
1999 Finalists Mississippi defeated Richmond, 4 games to 3
The Next Year Mississippi 35-27-8 (4th Southwest, CQF), Richmond 44-21-5 (2nd Northeast, CQF)
1998 Finalists Hampton Roads defeated Pensacola, 4 games to 2
The Next Year Hampton Roads 38-24-8 (2nd Northeast, CQF), Pensacola 25-41-4 (8th Southwest, DNQ)
1997 Finalists South Carolina defeated Louisiana, 4 games to 1
The Next Year South Carolina 41-23-6 (1st Southeast, CQF), Louisiana 43-17-10 (1st Southwest, CF)
Kelly Cup Champions In October
1996-97 South Carolina, 4-0-1
1997-98 Hampton Roads, 4-2-1
1998-99 Mississippi, 2-3-1
99-2000 Peoria, 4-0-1
2000-01 South Carolina, 3-3-2
2001-02 Greenville, 5-4-1
2002-03 Atlantic City, 5-2-1
2003-04 Idaho, 4-4-0
2004-05 Trenton, 3-1-0
2005-06 Alaska, 4-1-1
2006-07 Idaho, 4-1-0
2007-08 Cincinnati, 2-2-0
2008-09 South Carolina, 3-1-0
ECHL Hall of Fame
ECHL Hall of Fame
In conjunction with the celebration of its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08, the ECHL announced the formation of the ECHL Hall of Fame.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league, behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the Premier AA Hockey League has grown from five teams in four states in 1988-89 into a coast-to-coast league with 20 teams playing in 15 states and British Columbia in 2009-10.
The inaugural class of inductees were league founder Henry Brabham, first league commissioner Patrick J. Kelly, five-time ECHL champion Nick Vitucci and seven-time All-Star defenseman Chris Valicevic.
The Class of 2009 is legendary coach John Brophy, owner Blake Cullen, three-time ECHL Defenseman of the Year Tom Nemeth and ECHL career goal leader Rod Taylor.
Each class will be inducted as part of the league's annual All-Star event.
Hall of Fame members will be selected in four categories: Player, Developmental Player, Builder, and Referee/Linesman. Players must have concluded their career as an active player for a minimum of three playing seasons, though not continuous or full seasons. Development Players must have begun their career in the ECHL and went on to a distinguished career in the NHL, playing a minimum of 260 regular season games in the NHL, AHL and ECHL. Builders may be active or inactive whereas Referee/Linesman must have concluded their active officiating career for a minimum of three playing seasons.
No more than five candidates may be elected to the ECHL Hall of Fame each year with no more than three Players, one Developmental Player, two Builders and one Referee/Linesman. The Builder and the Referee/Linesman categories are dependent upon the number of candidates in the Player category.
The nomination and/or selection of candidates will be determined by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee and its Chairman Patrick J. Kelly.
Only members of the Selection Committee, the Board of Governors, teams or persons affiliated with the ECHL may submit official nominations which must be made in writing to the league office. Fans are encouraged to contact their team to propose names for nomination.
2010 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Format
2010 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Format
The ECHL Board of Governors unanimously approved the format for the 2010 Kelly Cup Playoffs as follows:
The conference quarterfinals will be a best-of-five game series with the remaining rounds being best-of-seven game series. The best-of-five series will be a 2-3 format with the higher seed choosing if it wishes to host Games 1-2 or Games 3-5. Teams that are less than 350 miles apart may choose to play a 2-2-1 format.
In the National Conference, postseason berths will be awarded to the first-place team in each division and the next five teams in the conference, based on points. The division winner with the best record in the conference will receive a bye in the first round. The other division winner will be seeded second and meet the team that finishes seventh in the conference in the first round. The other first round matchups will be the third-place finisher in the conference against the sixth-place finisher in the conference and the fourth-place finisher in the conference against the fifth-place finisher in the conference. The conference semifinals will have the first-place finisher meeting the winner of the fourth-place and fifth-place matchup and the winner of the second-place finisher and seventh-place finisher against the winner of the third-place finisher against the sixth-place finisher.
In the American Conference, postseason berths will be awarded to the first-place team in each division and the next five teams in the conference, based on points. The division winners will be seeded first, second and third and will play the eighth-place finisher, the seventh-place finisher and the sixth-place finisher, respectively, while the fourth-place finisher and the fifth-place finisher will meet. The conference semifinals will have the winner of the first-place and eighth-place matchup will meet the winner of the fourth-place and fifth-place game while the winner of the second-place and seventh-place game will face the winner of the third-place and sixth-place matchup.
The Board approved the following schedule for the 2010 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Conference Quarterfinals (Apr. 5-12, 2010), Conference Semifinals (Apr. 14-28, 2010), Conference Finals (Apr. 30-May 12, 2010) and Kelly Cup Finals (May 14-28, 2010).
ECHL 2009-10 Conference/Division Alignment
ECHL 2009-10 Conference/Division Alignment
South Carolina Stingrays
Las Vegas Wranglers
Victoria Salmon Kings
2009-10 ECHL Time Zones
South Carolina Stingrays
Las Vegas Wranglers
Victoria Salmon Kings
ECHL Critical Dates 2009-10
ECHL Critical Dates 2009-10
Opening Day Rosters due at 3 p.m. ET
22nd ECHL Regular Season Begins
ECHL Hall of Fame nominations due
ECHL Hall of Fame candidate selection
For all players on ECHL rosters as of 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 21, a roster freeze shall apply through 9 a.m. ET on Dec. 26 with respect to waivers, trades and other player assignments
13th Annual ECHL Skills Competition presented by Reebok Hockey at Ontario, Calif.
18th Annual ECHL All-Star Game presented by Reebok Hockey at Ontario, Calif.
NHL/AHL player bought out of his contract after this date may not appear on Protected List
Overseas Deadline at 5 p.m. ET
National Hockey League Olympic Break
National Hockey League Trade Deadline
American Hockey League Clear Day List
Recall/Assignment Deadline at 11:59 p.m. ET
ECHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET
Regular Season Ends
Kelly Cup Playoff rosters due at 3 p.m. ET
Kelly Cup Playoffs begin
Protected List due
Future considerations trades must be completed
Season-Ending Rosters due