In 2005, the National Conference Championship was between the Alaska Aces and the Trenton Titans. Alaska’s run was backed by NHL All-Star Scott Gomez who led the league in points and was voted the most valuable player during the regular season. Although the Titans won and later went on to become the Kelly Cup Champions, Alaska played the series without Gomez due to injury.
Once again, Scott Gomez will rejoin the Alaska Aces along with fellow Alaskan natives Nate Thompson (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Joseph Crabb (Washington Capitals). Also, veteran Paul Mara will be spending his season with the Ontario Reign.
The reason goes without saying that these high caliber players are joining the ECHL is because of the NHL lockout. They know they cannot afford to take the year off, so many have chosen to play close to home. It is rare for a professional athlete to be so lucky to have the chance to work near home; this gives the ECHL a special advantage for North American players. Point is that many players need a team so they can remain playing during the off-season and the ECHL needs them.
With yet another session of what seems like pointless talks this past Saturday, the reality of a 2012-13 NHL season looks less likely as time goes by. From a fans vantage point, it looks as if the NHLPA and the owners are worse procrastinators then a college student on reddit. If this keeps up, we wont see the NHL till next year. This unfortunate event could work out well for the ECHL, however.
The ECHL hasn’t been doing badly for a Semi-Professional Sports league, but they could be producing more revenue. In the 2007-08 season the league donated almost 4$ million to charitable organizations, and in the 2011-12 season that was reduced to 2.6 million. This season they have expanded the league by three teams, adding four (Evansville, Fort Wayne, Orlando, and San Francisco) and losing the Chicago Express due to a lack of attendance.
This is perfect timing for a couple high class players to show off their talents and bring more fans to the games. We have seen most of the big names sign with the KHL and other European leagues, but many players have also signed with their respected minor league club. The AHL players that are then pushed off the score sheet still need somewhere to go, and the ECHL is a perfect fit.