The ECHL announced on Monday that its 28th season will begin on Friday, Oct. 16 with 11 games being played in 11 states from Florida to Alaska and continues on Saturday, Oct. 17 with 13 more games in 11 states. Opening Weekend concludes on Sunday, Oct. 18 with three games.
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league that will have 28 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province playing 1,008 games from Oct. 16, 2015 to April 9, 2016.
The third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, the ECHL averaged 4,598 fans per game in 2014-15, marking the 11th consecutive season and the 23rd time in the last 25 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.
The release date of the ECHL schedule is the earliest in recent memory, allowing teams to plan and execute special promotional nights during the first half of the season and allowing fans ample time to plan their schedule.
In addition, fans will see more variety and many first-time visitors to their arenas. Not only will fans see new teams, they will have more opportunity to see how their team stacks up against the top performers in other divisions or conference.
Opening Night is highlighted by the Norfolk Admirals hosting Wheeling in the first ECHL game at the Norfolk Scope since the 2000 Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Hampton Roads Admirals were part of the ECHL from 1989-2000, winning a League-record tying three championships (1991, 1992 and 1998). ECHL hockey also comes to New Hampshire for the first time when the Manchester Monarchs open at home against Brampton. The third new ECHL Member for the 2015-16 season, the Adirondack Thunder, open the season at Elmira on Opening Night before hosting the first ECHL game at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Saturday, Oct. 24 when they host Manchester.
The 2015-16 season features a fully-integrated schedule for the seven expansion teams which joined the League in October and an increase in the number of interconference games.
Five teams will make their first-ever visit to Alaska in 2015-16 as the Aces host Missouri, Evansville, Rapid City, Allen and Fort Wayne.
Allen hosts first-time visitors Utah, Idaho, Cincinnati and Evansville while Adirondack, Manchester, Kalamazoo, Norfolk, Fort Wayne, Greenville and Orlando all pay visits to Brampton.
Cincinnati hosts Alaska in a rematch of the 2014 Kelly Cup Finals while other visitors to U.S. Bank Arena include Adirondack, Quad City and Tulsa.
Colorado renews its old rivalry with Rapid City while also welcoming Tulsa, Florida, Wichita, Allen, Missouri and Fort Wayne.
Alaska, Missouri, Quad City, Wichita, Rapid City and Tulsa are among the visitors to Evansville while Florida hosts Idaho, Norfolk and Brampton.
The Greenville Road Warriors see visits from Alaska, Norfolk and Adirondack and the Gwinnett Gladiators will entertain Adirondack, Manchester, Norfolk, Alaska and Idaho.
Visitors to Fort Wayne include Manchester, Brampton, Quad City, Rapid City and Tulsa while Idaho hosts new division-rival Rapid City in addition to Allen, Tulsa, Missouri and Florida in a rematch of the 2004 Kelly Cup Finals.
Indy hosts Quad City, Alaska, Wichita, Rapid City and Brampton for the first time while visitors to Kalamazoo include Adirondack, Manchester, Brampton, Quad City, Colorado, Utah and Norfolk.
Missouri sees Quad City, Indy, Cincinnati and South Carolina pay their first visits to the Independence Events Center and Orlando hosts Norfolk, Idaho, Manchester and Adirondack at Amway Center.
The Quad City Mallards host Indy, Cincinnati, Wheeling, Alaska and Utah.
Rapid City joins the West Division, renewing a long-standing rivalry with the Colorado Eagles, while creating new geographic rivalries with Utah, Idaho and Alaska. The Rush will host Fort Wayne, along with former Central Division rivals Allen, Wichita, Quad City, Tulsa and Missouri.
South Carolina hosts Alaska in a rematch of the 2009 Kelly Cup Finals, along with first-time visitors Norfolk, Brampton and Adirondack while Toledo welcomes Adirondack, Brampton, Manchester, Utah, Colorado, Norfolk and Quad City to the Huntington Center.
Tulsa welcomes Utah, Idaho, Evansville and Colorado to Oklahoma while visitors to Utah include Allen, Tulsa, Wichita, Rapid City and Gwinnett.
Wheeling hosts Brampton, Quad City, Norfolk, Adirondack and Manchester while first-time visitors to Wichita include Indy, Cincinnati, South Carolina, Idaho and Alaska.