Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Ol' Girl Heads to Brampton, Asuchak Promoted, ECHL Realignment Details

Big Red better known as the "Ol' Girl"

- For some reason every time there is a road trip to Brampton the subject of the bus and the long bus ride comes up.  This  24 hour, 1400 mile trek is unique even for the guys that have traveled the minor league hockey circuits for many years. So what is it like on the bus some call "Big Red" or "The Ol' Girl?"  And old she is. The bus is a 1998 Prevost that has surpassed 1,000,000 miles traveled. The team bought the bus from a company in Nashville. There will be two drivers on board who take turns driving. The bus is mostly rows and rows of bunks (23 in total) and one couch. In the middle there is a little kitchen area with a fridge and microwave and the bathroom. The guys keep busy with smart phones, iPads, cards (shnarps/cribbage), movies, TV, conversation, books both hardback and electronic and plenty of sleeping.

- Will have a complete game preview tomorrow but with Brampton having the fewest points in the entire league (36 points behind league leading Allen) along with the fact they rank #28 in the ECHL in both goals scored and goals allowed it will be important Allen get all four points on the quick trip to Canada. The Americans have lost three of their last five games so they need to get back to their winning ways.

- There are several roster changes since Allen lost to Rapid City last Friday. Greger Hanson has returned after playing in two games for Oklahoma City (AHL) over the weekend. Greger scored his second AHL goal on Friday night. Josef Fojtik is with the team and expected to play in Brampton. Patrik Valcak is not on the trip as he is still recovering from an injury he sustained in his last game in Poland before arriving in Allen.

- When Spencer Asuchak returned to Allen on Friday after his lengthy stay in Providence (AHL) some were kidding him about his poor timing as he arrived in Allen just in time to take the long bus trip to Brampton. Not to worry as Spencer was promoted back to the AHL yesterday and avoided the bus trip. Asuchak is now on loan to the Worcester Sharks.

- You have probably seen the new ECHL six division alignment for next season and may wonder what does that mean in terms of the schedule. As a reminder here is the new division alignment:

North Division - Brampton, Kalamazoo, Toledo, Wheeling
East Division - Adirondack, Elmira, Manchester, Norfolk, Reading
South Division - Florida, Greenville, Gwinnett, Orlando, South Carolina

Midwest Division - Cincinnati, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indy, Quad City
Central Division - Allen, Missouri, Tulsa, Wichita
West Division - Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Rapid City, Utah

- So the Americans will play in the ECHL Central Division with the familiar Tulsa Oilers, Wichita Thunder and Missouri Mavericks, making up the new four team division.
Cincinnati, Evansville, Fort Wayne, and Indy, all join the Western Conference next season and form a new Midwest Division along with the Quad City Mallards.
Rapid City will remain in the Western Conference, joining the West Division along with Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Alaska.
 Brampton moves to the Eastern Conference and will be a part of the North Division along with Kalamazoo, Toledo and Wheeling.

- The division winners will be seeded 1, 2 and 3 and the next five highest point totals in each conference will qualify for the playoffs. All series will be best of seven and the conference champions meet for the Kelly Cup finals.

- Several readers have asked how the new alignment will impact the schedule and some have even said they will not renew their season tickets if their team plays the other teams in the division over and over. Here is the current thinking of the league office concerning scheduling for next season. My thanks to the ECHL office for sharing their thinking as they begin to work on the schedules for next year. You have to keep in mind the scheduling process has not begun in earnest at this point and there are no guarantees as making a schedule is a very fluid process with numerous variables to be considered. With that said here is the thinking going into the scheduling process, remember no guarantees but guiding principles.
1. The schedule will be favored toward geographical rivals in an effort to keep costs down.
2. No team will play an opponent more than 12 times (6 home, 6 away).
3. With the Board of Governors mandating east/west travel each team will see a good variety of opponents.

The bottom line for Allen fans is even though the Central Division only has four teams it is likely the Americans will play Tulsa and Wichita fewer times next year than this year. There will be plenty of opportunity to see new teams coming to Allen to play the Americans.

- While it will not happen for the 2015-2016 season some are speculating the reason the Central Division has only four teams is to be able to add Oklahoma City for the 2016-2017 season.

DID YOU KNOW: ECHL teams have many revenue streams which vary from franchise to franchise but may include corporate sponsors, concessions, parking, arena profits, auctions, tryout camps, souvenirs, kids camps, raffles just to name a few but the key to success is ticket sales. Ticket sales represent an estimated 75% - 80% of total revenue for the average ECHL team.

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