The ECHL Deserves More Attention And Here’s Why

Courtney Phillips/The Puck Authority

In my second season covering the ECHL, I have learned a lot despite the team I cover (Adirondack Thunder) opting out of the season along with the rest of the North Divison. There are a number of factors that the ECHL doesn’t get much coverage and I will dive into the reasons over the course of this article, but before we begin, let’s get one thing straight. The ECHL is not called the East Coast Hockey League. This is probably the biggest misconception among fans and media. One of the most interesting things about the ECHL is that they are only allowed to dress 16 skaters as well as two goaltenders, and the overtime periods are three-on-three and seven minutes long, which makes it a lot more exciting. Also, there aren’t many media outlets that cover the ECHL other than the local news outlets, which is a shame.

Expanding Rapidly Over The Course Of The Last Year

Over the course of the past year and a half, The ECHL has announced they will be adding three more teams to the league, with two of those teams starting next season, with Trois-Rivieres and Iowa expected to join in time for the 2021-22 season. Savannah is expected to join the league in time for the 2022-23 season. Iowa has been a team that has a lot of buzz around them since announcing its expansion in January, and one of the biggest factors to that is that they’ve been very active on the social media side of things, which is a great way to create a fan base. It’s very likely that Iowa will get to work on an affiliation deal with the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota’s deal with the Allen Americans comes to a close at the end of the season. With that being said, it’s possible that they could partner with the San Jose Sharks, who are a team without an ECHL affiliate.

The expansion to Trois-Rivières is one of the biggest moves for the ECHL, especially with the loss of the Brampton Beast, who announced they’d be folding at the end of the season. Newfoundland and Trois-Rivières are expected to become Canadian Rivals, especially with Montreal and Toronto being the parent team affiliates of the two organizations. Savannah will also create another in-state rival with the Atlanta Gladiators. The other ECHL Instate rivalries are the Fort Wayne Komets and Indy Fuel, as well as the Florida Everblades and Orlando Solar Bears.

Breeding Ground For NHL Players, Coaches And Broadcasters

When it was announced that the Seattle Kraken were going to be joining the NHL, former Cincinnati Cyclones broadcaster Everett Fitzhugh joined the Kraken radio team as their play-by-play voice. Some notable players who have made it to the show include goaltenders Alex Nedeljkovic, Cam Talbot, as well as Tim Thomas. In 2020, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, making it 20 consecutive years there was a former ECHL’er on the Stanley Cup Championship roster. As of May 14th, 698 former ECHL’ers have successfully made it to the NHL stage.

On the head coaching side, there were 41 former ECHL players or coaches on the NHL opening day roster, including bench bosses Peter Laviolette, Geoff Ward, Jared Bednar and Bruce Cassidy. Jack Capuano, who was recently named as Team USA’s bench boss for the IIHF Men’s World Championship, also made an appearance in the ECHL. 24 of the 32 NHL teams have affiliate teams in the AHL and ECHL, and that is number is only rising, as the ECHL continues to expand its margins. For those who are interested, there were 37 former ECHL officials who the NHL used to work games throughout the season.

Dedicated Fan Bases And Themed Nights

As I’ve mentioned, the ECHL isn’t well known, so they have to find a way to get people into buildings and they do that with their use of them nights. In the E, almost every night is a themed night, regardless of the organization, and that can bring out some of the most interesting jerseys in hockey. Our own Haynes Evans wrote an article on some of the best jersey designs debuted throughout the league’s history. As we know, fans are dedicated to their team, regardless of the on-ice action. However, it seems there’s something special about ECHL fans, especially those living in small suburban cities without an NHL team nearby. The fans aren’t just rowdier, but they seem to know a lot more about the players, which is a great way for the guys to get their names out there. One of the biggest factors that leads to this is that most ECHL Rinks are substantially smaller than NHL arenas. These are all reasons that if you are looking to work in the sports world, the ECHL is a great place to get your feet wet, because not only is it a lower level, but in saying that, you’re likely to be met by some interesting things that will surely catch your eye.

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