updated: 5/18/2012 7:29:56 AM
The Evansville Icemen and Fort Wayne Komets will both play in the ECHL beginning next season. The teams played in the Central Hockey League last season, with Fort Wayne winning the championship.
May 17, 2012
Evansville, Ind. -- In their first major press conference of the 2012 summer off-season, on Thursday, May 17th at their home of the Ford Center, downtown Evansville, the Evansville IceMen, in conjunction with the ECHL, have announced that the Evansville franchise has been approved for admission as a member of the ECHL.
The IceMen will launch their ECHL debut in October 2012 when professional hockey’s Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League celebrates its 25th Anniversary Season, as it becomes the third longest term pro circuit behind only the National Hockey League (NHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL).
In attendance for today’s latest ground-breaking IceMen franchise development, ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna welcomed the Evansville franchise to the League fold. “The ECHL is pleased to welcome the Evansville IceMen to the League. Under the leadership of Ron Geary, the team has developed a strong base of fans. This loyal following, combined with a terrific new arena in the Ford Center, make Evansville a strong addition to the ECHL as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary Season. The IceMen are a welcome addition to our Midwest footprint.”
Evansville Team Owner and Club President Geary echoed similar sentiments especially accenting his organization’s excitement on its latest new endeavor in its ongoing evolution in the world of professional hockey. “The IceMen organization is delighted to become a part of such an outstanding league as the ECHL. As our franchise continues its growth and development, this move really becomes a natural progression for us. Through their great support and enthusiasm, our growing numbers of loyal and devoted fans have demonstrated how much they want to see a top-flight, quality product. Our step today is another move in that direction. We have come a long way in a short period of time. This is a true testament and tribute to our fans and the Evansville/Tri-State community. The IceMen pro hockey fans of Evansville and the Tri-State will thrill to seeing future NHL players today playing in the ECHL and in the colors of the IceMen. We are looking forward to being a member of the ECHL beginning in the league’s 25th Anniversary Season and the long-term growth and stability which we firmly belief the ECHL offers our IceMen franchise.”
The 2012-13 League membership is comprised of 23-teams, aligned in two conferences (Eastern & Western) and five divisions; (North, Atlantic & South in the Eastern Conference; Mountain & Pacific in the Western Conference).
The IceMen will become a member club of the Eastern Conference/North Division which will be comprised of the Cincinnati Cyclones, Kalamazoo Wings and Toledo Walleye.
Under a special two-year agreement, the Evansville IceMen, as an IHL entity, operated their franchise in the Central Hockey League in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 CHL seasons.
Mr. Geary acknowledged the opportunity to be a part of the CHL, expressing the club’s appreciation and gratitude to the league. “The Evansville IceMen organization would like to thank the Central Hockey League for the opportunity to be a part of their league for the past two years. As a pro hockey organization, it was not only a most enjoyable experience for us but also it has brought us to this day, today. We are most appreciative.”
As for the IceMen’s new league address, the ECHL was born in the 1988-89 season with five teams in four states, having since grown to become a coast-to-coast league with 23-teams in 16-states for the upcoming 2012-13 season.
Evolving into a primary developmental league for the NHL and the AHL, the ECHL has sent over 490-players to the NHL including 23 in the 2011-12 season. The ECHL had a record 81-players on NHL opening day rosters this season, surpassing the 79 from 2010-11 and marking the ninth consecutive year that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening day rosters.
The ECHL had affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams in 2011-12 while 29-coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the NHL.
For the 2011-12 campaign, the ECHL averaged 4,281 fans per game. It was the eighth straight season and the 20th time in the last 22-years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.
Concerning the IceMen attendance in their inaugural season at their new home of the Ford Center in 2011-12, Evansville finished fourth in the CHL with an average attendance of 4,882.
Source: Evansville Icemen