The new ECHL team in St. John’s should get a good start at developing divisional rivalries during its inaugural season.
Not only does the seven-team North Division to which it will belong include four cities that competed against St. John’s in the American Hockey League, but the ECHL’s 2018-19 schedule revealed on Tuesday shows the vast majority of St. John’s 72 regular-season games will be within the division.
But despite the division-heavy schedule, the expansion team will actually play its first-ever game against a non-divisional team — the Florida Everblades — on Oct. 12 at Mile One Centre.
The North Division also includes the Reading Royals, Brampton Beast, Maine (Portland) Mariners, Adirondack (Glens Falls, N.Y.) Thunder, Worcester Railers and Manchester Monarchs. The latter four cities, like St. John’s, were formerly in the AHL.
The St. John’s team — which is expected to be formally introduced as the Newfoundland Growlers next week — will play 58 games within the North Division. That includes eight games each against Maine, Manchester, Worcester and Adirondack.
Reading will be an opponent on 11 occasions and Brampton will be the matchup a whopping 13 times. What’s more, the St. John’s team will play seven road games against each of those two clubs.
The reason for the busy schedules against Brampton and Reading has a lot to do with travel schedules.
All of new team’s roads trips will begin and end with flights to Toronto and Brampton is just 20 minutes from Pearson International Airport, making the Beast a logical opponent for the starting and/or finishing games of those treks. And Reading is 60 minutes from Philadelphia, which along with Boston, will be cities to which to which the team will fly to and from Toronto on trips requiring multiple flights.
The Brampton and Reading schedules are just a couple of anomalies on the schedule for the St. John’s-based team.
The Everblades and Fort Wayne Komets are teams that will play in St. John’s, but won’t host any games against the Newfoundland side. What’s more, the Komets — the only Western Conference opponent for the new club — will be here for three games in three nights. Also playing a three-in three at Mile One will be the Orlando Solar Bears.
The St. John’s team will play three other clubs — the Atlanta Gladiators, South Carolina Stingrays and Greenville Swamp Rabbits — one time each, all on the road.
The team will have seven homestands at Mile One and seven road trips.
Twenty-four of the club’s 36 games will be on weekends — (10 on Fridays, 11 on Saturdays and three on Sundays), with the remaining 12 evenly divided between Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
And in a departure from AHL schedules in St. John’s, which mostly involved 7:30 p.m. start times, ECHL games at Mile One will begin at 7 p.m., except on Sundays when the puck drop will be 4 p.m.
Season ticket sales for the new team have already begun through the Mile One Box office (online, by phone or in person). People who held season tickets for the National Basketball League of Canada's St. John's Edge, whose ownership will have a partnership with the new hockey team, were initially offered exclusive seat selection priority for ECHL games. Now the focus is shifting to those who held season tickets with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps; that seat-selection priority has become available to them.