ECHL Announces Realingment

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Posted July 11, 2016

Despite the 2016-17 regular season schedule coming out months ago, the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) today announced major modifications to the playoff system. The changes will go into effect for this upcoming season. The Board of Governors approved the plan to fashion their playoff system more like the ones seen in the American Hockey League (AHL) and National Hockey League (NHL).

The ECHL used to have three divisions per conference, with most teams playing their divisional opponents over ten times a season. Now, the divisions will look like this:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

North Division (6)
Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Elmira Jackals, Manchester Monarchs, Reading Royals, Wheeling Nailers

South Division (7)
Atlanta Gladiators, Cincinnati Cyclones, Florida Everblades, Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Norfolk Admirals, Orlando Solar Bears, South Carolina Stingrays

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Central Division (7)
Fort Wayne Komets, Indy Fuel, Kalamazoo Wings, Quad City Mallards, Toledo Walleye, Tulsa Oilers, Wichita Thunder

Mountain Division (7)
Alaska Aces, Allen Americans, Colorado Eagles, Idaho Steelheads, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush, Utah Grizzlies

The playoffs used to operate under a seeding system — No. 1 plays No. 8, 2 plays 7 and so on. Now, much like the NHL and AHL, the opening two rounds of the Kelly Cup Playoffs will be contested by divisional foes. In round one, the division winner will play the fourth-seed, and seeds two and three will face-off.

If this format was used during the 2015-16 season, the South Carolina Stingrays, the South Division champions, would have faced the Orlando Solar Bears. Orlando did not make the playoffs last season under the old system.

Instead, the Stingrays faced Kalamazoo (Michigan), Adirondack (upstate New York), and Wheeling (Pennsylvania) in their three-round playoff campaign, all long road trips.

Other notables things include the Cincinnati Cyclones and Toledo Walleye swapping conferences, the Kalamazoo Wings joining the West, and the Evansville IceMen suspending operations with intent to move to Owensboro, Kentucky. Evansville will not play this upcoming season.