Saturday, October 22, 2011

All aboard! The ECHL's Chicago Express makes its home debut tonight

Tonight in Hoffman Estates, one of the two newest ECHL teams, the Chicago Express, will take to the ice for their first home game in franchise history. The Express is affiliated with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the AHL's Springfield Falcons, and with their introduction to the Chicago hockey scene, makes Chicago the only major market in North America to be home to an NHL (Blackhawks), AHL (Wolves), and ECHL team.

The Express head coach and director of hockey operations, Steve Martinson, has never missed the postseason in his 15 years as head coach, including guiding the Rockford IceHogs to UHL's Colonial Cup in 2007. He's off to a good start already, as the Express beat the Toledo Walleye (Blackhawks/Red Wings ECHL affiliate) last Saturday in Toledo 5-1.

They'll face off tonight at 7:30pm CT against the Kalamazoo Wings ("K-Wings") at Sears Centre Arena (5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates). The team has fun events planned for the evening, including a train whistle giveaway (the team logo is a locomotive) and magnet schedule giveaways, an "attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most train whistles used at one time", an appearance by the ZOOperstars, and a post-game skate with the players on the team ice. The Express is currently 1-0-0 and the K-Wings (Vancouver Canucks/NJ Devils affilliate) are 2-0-0.

For those not familiar with the ECHL, it was originally formed in 1988 as the East Coast Hockey League with six teams. Due to growth within the league and the locations of teams added, the East Coast Hockey League became simply the "ECHL" starting during the 2002-03 season. The league currently encompasses 20 teams that play a 72-game schedule, and includes all corners of the nation - including Alaska.

ECHL teams are very family-friendly, with inexpensive ticket prices and hockey-related activities aimed at kids. 

There are 469 former ECHL players that have gone on to the NHL, including current players as diverse as Jaroslav Halak, Chad LaRose, Tim Thomas, Alex Burrows, and Daniel Carcillo. One level below the AHL, most ECHL teams have affiliations with one or two NHL teams; the only ECHL team currently without an NHL partner is the Las Vegas Wranglers.


NHL affiliationColumbus Blue Jackets
AHL affiliationSpringfield Falcons
Broadcast infoCan watch online, or via radio/audio through the team website
ArenaSears Centre Arena
5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates, IL
Seating capacity for hockey: 9,400
Food services at SCA provided by Levy Food Service
Ticket pricesStart at $7 for kids/seniors; $9 adult; up to $26 on the glass
Season tickets start at $5/game
Box office (888) 732-7784 or (224) 220-1333
Team mascotTrax
Team ownersCraig & Sue Drecktrah
Head coachSteve Martinson
Sunday special eventsAfter Sunday matinee games, fans are invited to skate with the team on the SCA ice (limited skate rentals available; fans are encouraged to bring their own)
Friday home games$1 beers & $1 hot dogs

Chicago Express at their first team practice on October 1, 2011

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