The East Coast Hockey League, once considered the lowest of the U.S. minor hockey leagues, has been growing steadily the past five years under Pat Kelly, the league commissioner.
The ECHL has as many teams as the well-established American Hockey League (15) and five more than the International Hockey League. Two of its teams, the Cincinnati Cyclones and Hampton Roads Admirals, have the best attendance in minor-league hockey. Cincinnati, with former Baltimore Skipjacks radio broadcaster Terry Ficorelli as general manager, is averaging nearly 10,000 customers to the Cincinnati Gardens. Cincinnati, which is affiliated with the New Jersey Devils, had the largest crowd of the season, 10,202. Hampton, with former Baltimore Clipper John Brophy as coach and general manager, is averaging nearly 8,000 fans to the Norfolk (Va.) Scope.
"We are averaging 4,217 fans a game, and if we continue this pace, we'll hit 2.2 million for the year," said Kelly. "We have five clubs over 4,000 a game in average attendance, and our attendance is up over last year."