The ECHL announced on Wednesday that its 27th season will begin on Friday, Oct. 17 with six games being played in six states from Florida to Alaska and continues on Saturday, Oct. 18 with 10 more games in eight states. Opening Weekend concludes on Sunday, Oct. 19 with two games.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that will have 21 teams in 14 states playing 756 games from Oct. 17, 2014 to April 11, 2015.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL averaged 4,706 fans per game in 2013-14, the highest single-season average since 1999-2000, and the 10th consecutive season and the 22nd time in the last 24 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.
Opening Weekend is highlighted by the ECHL’s newest Member, the Indianapolis Fuel, playing their inaugural game in the newly-renovated Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum on Friday, Oct. 17 against their in-state rival Fort Wayne.
The Alaska Aces, currently in the midst of the Kelly Cup Finals, will raise their fourth consecutive Brabham Cup banner as ECHL regular-season champions, as well as their fourth Western Conference championship banner in club history, when they open the 2014-15 season against Ontario on Oct. 17. It will be a rematch of the 2014 Western Conference Semifinals at Rabobank Arena on Oct. 17 when the Bakersfield Condors host the Stockton Thunder in their home opener. Also out west on Oct. 17, the Utah Grizzlies, who posted the ECHL’s largest attendance increase in 2013-14, open up at home against Idaho.
Elmira opens at home at First Arena on Oct. 17 with a match-up against Kalamazoo while the Florida Everblades host South Carolina in their home opener.
Saturday, Oct. 18 sees six more teams opening their home schedules, including the Fort Wayne Komets hosting Indianapolis in the back end of their opening weekend home-and-home series. The Evansville IceMen, who finished fifth in the ECHL in 2013-14 with 5,369 fans per game, open against Gwinnett. The Orlando Solar Bears, who will host the 2015 ECHL All-Star Game at Amway Center on Jan. 21, open their home season against Greenville while Toledo, which has averaged over 6,000 fans four times in the last five years, hosts Eastern Conference champion Cincinnati in its home opener. The Wheeling Nailers host Reading in their home opener at WesBanco Arena while the final home opener on Saturday has the Idaho Steelheads hosting Utah in the back end of their home-and-home series.
The final home opener of the first weekend is in Stockton on Oct. 19 when the Thnuder host Bakersfield.
Kalamazoo will celebrate its fourth North Division title in five seasons when it hosts its opener at Wings Stadium against Fort Wayne, the Gwinnett Gladiators host Wheeling in its home opener while Greenville hosts South Carolina all on Friday, Oct. 24.
Five teams will hold home openers on Saturday, Oct. 25. The Cincinnati Cyclones will raise their third Eastern Conference championship banner in club history when they host Kalamazoo, while Colorado, which has sold-out every regular-season game in team history, will host Utah at the Budweiser Events Center. Ontario, which became the first ECHL team to average over 8,000 fans per game in 14 seasons in 2013-14, opens its home schedule against Idaho. The Reading Royals open their home season against Elmira while South Carolina hosts Wheeling at the North Charleston Coliseum.
For the first time in ECHL history, the game will go outside as the Toledo Walleye will host two games at Fifth Third Field as part of Winterfest. The Walleye will host Kalamazoo on Saturday, Dec. 27 and Fort Wayne on Saturday, Jan. 3.
Divisional alignments for the 2014-15 season and the format for the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs will be determined by the Board of Governors at a later date.