SHREWSBURY, N.J. – Entering its 35th season, the ECHL looked to keep striving as the premier “Double-A” hockey league in North America. What makes the league itself unique is how it thrives in non-traditional hockey markets comparatively speaking to the AHL and even the NHL. Since its start in 1988, teams have come and gone but the league itself kept growing and involving into what it is now. Currently, the league is comprised of 28 teams expanding throughout the United States, along with the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland.
Some of the unique places that the ECHL has made its home include Idaho, Utah, Kansas, and Iowa to name a few. There are a vast number of teams throughout the Southeastern region of the United States as well. This makes the ECHL a fascinating league to watch and to see grow into what it is now. As the 35th season wore on, something about it began to feel special, like this wasn’t your typical ECHL season. It started to feel like something more than just an ECHL season with someone winning the Kelly Cup at the end.
If You Showcase Hockey, People Will Come
As of this article being written, the ECHL currently has a total attendance of 4,982,008 fans this season. That number includes the regular season and the playoffs. The 4.982 million fans are right now the new record for attendance as a league. The previous record was 4,979,066 which was set back in the 2014-15 season. The difference between these two seasons game-wise, the league has only played 1,079 games so far this year; in the 2014-15 season played 1,103 games in total for that year. Comparatively speaking, that is only a difference of 24 games between the two seasons.
Currently, the ECHL is in their Conference Final matchups. The matchups are between the Idaho Steelheads and the Toledo Walleye in the Western Conference; in the Eastern Conference, the matchup is between the Newfoundland Growlers and the Florida Everblades. Florida is currently leading their series 2-1 while Idaho is leading theirs 2-0.
As it stands, the league is looking to eclipse the 5 million fan mark this year. The margin from the current 4.982 million to the 5 million mark is only 17,992 fans. There is a solid chance that the ECHL will hit that mark. While the Western Conference Final is only two games in comparison to the three games in the Eastern Conference, there is a great chance of that mark being accomplished.
Scaling down from a league-wide view to individual teams, the average attendance this year is great to see for the ECHL.
Top Five Average Attendance
When looking at the average attendance in the ECHL this season, the top five teams in attendance on average may surprise some people. Although, there are people who follow the league enough to know that it really is not a surprise.
The Top Five Teams in average attendance:
Jacksonville Iceman: 7749
Fort Wayne Komets: 7740
Toledo Walleye: 7713
Tulsa Oilers: 6853
Savannah Ghost Pirates: 6802
Credit where credit is due, it is phenomenal to see the Ghost Pirates finish 5th in average attendance in their first year in the league. As a whole, the ECHL has averaged 4,617 fans (total attendance divided by number of league games).
What is Next for the ECHL?
As a whole, the league just needs to keep striving to cement itself as a league that is built for traditional and non-traditional hockey markets. Keep growing the game and being a game, along with a league, that is for everyone. When, not if, the league hits its 5 millionth fan, that will only take it to another level as a whole.
Right now there are 28 teams. Will the 5 million fan mark show other markets that ECHL hockey belongs in their city? Who knows, maybe there will be 32 ECHL teams to match the current NHL & AHL format with each club having a minor league team with the parent club. If you’re looking for fun minor-league hockey, maybe give the ECHL a chance. Never know when the next team might show up.
Editor’s note: Since this writing, there have been two more postseason games in the ECHL, one in the Western Conference, and one in the Eastern. The attendance for those games: 8300 in Toledo, Ohio and 3720 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The total attendance is now over 4.994 million.
- The Coast Cast Episode #1: The Maiden Voyage
- PHOTOS: RJ Forbus’ Best Photos from the 2022-2023 Season
- PHOTOS: Héctor Urcia’s Best Photos from the 2022-23 Season
- Greenville Brings Back Former Defenseman
- PHOTOS: Drake Harlett’s Best Photos of the 2022-23 Season
- Greenville Ink California Forward Duo
- PHOTOS: Michelle Hancock’s Best Photos of the 2022-2023 Season
- Houde Returns To Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
- Greenville Adds Forward in Recent Deal
- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Adds To Blue Line