Last updated
Most recent season or competition:
2019–20 ECHL season
East Coast Hockey League.svg
ECHL Official logo
Sport Ice hockey
No. of teams26
CountryUnited States (24 teams)
Canada (2 teams)
Most recent
Newfoundland Growlers (1st title)
Most titles Alaska Aces,
Hampton Roads Admirals and
South Carolina Stingrays (3 each)
TV partner(s)Canada (English): Sportsnet/Sportsnet One
Canada (French): TVA Sports
United States: NHL Network
Official website Official website

The ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) is a mid-level professional ice hockey league based in Princeton, New Jersey, with teams scattered across the United States and two franchises in Canada. It is a tier below the American Hockey League.


The ECHL and the AHL are the only minor leagues recognized by the collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association, meaning any player signed to an entry-level NHL contract and designated for assignment must report to a club in either the ECHL or the AHL. [1] Additionally, the league's players are represented by the Professional Hockey Players' Association in negotiations with the ECHL itself. Some 662 players have played at least one game in the NHL after appearing in the ECHL. [2]

For the 2019–20 season, 25 of 31 National Hockey League teams have affiliations with an ECHL team [3] with the Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, and San Jose Sharks having no official affiliations. The ECHL has one independent team in the Norfolk Admirals. However, unaffiliated NHL teams do sometimes lend contracted players to ECHL teams for development and increased playing time.

The league's regular season begins in October and ends in April. The most recent ECHL champion is the Newfoundland Growlers, a 2018–19 expansion team that won the title in its inaugural season.


The league, which combined teams from the defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League and All-American Hockey League, began play as the East Coast Hockey League in 1988 with 5 teamsthe (Winston-Salem, North) Carolina Thunderbirds (now the Wheeling Nailers); the Erie Panthers (folded in 2011 as the Victoria Salmon Kings); the Johnstown Chiefs (now the Greenville Swamp Rabbits); the Knoxville Cherokees (ceased operations as the Pee Dee Pride in 2005; folded in 2009 following failed relocation efforts); and the Virginia Lancers (now the Utah Grizzlies).

In 2003, the West Coast Hockey League ceased operations, and the ECHL Board of Governors approved membership applications from the Anchorage/Alaska Aces, the Bakersfield Condors, the Fresno Falcons, the Idaho Steelheads, the Las Vegas Wranglers, the Long Beach Ice Dogs and the San Diego Gulls as well as from potential teams in Ontario, California and Reno, Nevada. Alaska, Bakersfield, Fresno, Idaho, Las Vegas, Long Beach and San Diego began play in the 2003–04 season as expansion teams. In a change reflective of the league's now-nationwide presence, the East Coast Hockey League shortened its name to the orphan initialism ECHL on May 19, 2003. The ECHL reached its largest size to date (31 teams) that season before being reduced to 28 teams for the 200405 season.

The ECHL has attempted to be more tech-friendly to its fans. Some improvements on the league's website have included a new schedule and statistics engine powered by League Stat, Inc. (introduced in 2006), internet radio coverage for most teams, and pay-per view broadcasting of ECHL games through B2 Networks (a subsidiary of America One Broadcasting). In 2008, the league introduced the ECHL toolbar for internet browsers which gave users short cut access to statistics, scores, transactions, and news updates. [4]

ECHL action, October 2012 in Toledo, Ohio between the Kalamazoo Wings and the Toledo Walleye. Faceoff Oct 2012 Kalamazoo at Toledo.jpg
ECHL action, October 2012 in Toledo, Ohio between the Kalamazoo Wings and the Toledo Walleye.

At the annual ECHL Board of Governors Meeting on June 15, 2010, in Henderson, Nevada, the Board of Governors approved changes to the names of the conferences and divisions. The former American Conference (comprising eleven East Coast and Midwest teams) was renamed the Eastern Conference, while the National Conference (consisting of 8 West Coast teams, including the league's only Canadian team at the time) was re-designated the Western Conference. Within the Eastern Conference, the East Division was renamed the Atlantic Division, and the Western Conference's former West Division was dubbed the Mountain Division. [5]

The league lost its only Canadian team with the folding of the Victoria Salmon Kings subsequent to the 2010–11 season. [6] The league increased to 20 teams for the 2011–12 season with the addition of the expansion franchise Chicago Express [7] and the Colorado Eagles who previously played in the Central Hockey League. [8]

With the folding of the Chicago Express at the conclusion of the 2011–12 season and the announcement of expansion franchises in Orlando, San Francisco, Evansville and Fort Wayne (both in Indiana and both from the Central Hockey League) the league played the 2012–13 season with 23 teams. That number dropped to 22 for the 201314 season with the folding of the Trenton Titans and subsequently fell to 21 with the mid-season folding of the San Francisco Bulls on January 27, 2014. On November 26, 2013, the ECHL announced that the Indy Fuel would begin play for the 2014–15 season and would play its home games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum, a 6,145-seat building located on the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

On October 7, 2014, the ECHL announced that the seven remaining active members of the Central Hockey League (the Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Quad City Mallards, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder) would be admitted as new members for the 2014–15 season, raising the number of teams to 28 and placing a team in Canada for the first time since 2011. [9]

Before the 2015–16 season, the AHL's creation of a Pacific Division led the three California ECHL teams to relocate to former AHL cities with the Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, and Stockton Thunder relocating to become the Norfolk Admirals, Manchester Monarchs, and Adirondack Thunder, respectively. [10] By the 2018–19 season, the ECHL had also expanded into other markets recently vacated by the AHL in the Maine Mariners, Newfoundland Growlers, and Worcester Railers.


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US-based teams in the ECHL as of the 2019–20 season. Dot colors correspond to the divisional alignment.
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Canadian-based teams in the ECHL as of the 2019–20 season. Dot colors correspond to the divisional alignment.


DivisionTeamCityArenaFoundedJoinedHead CoachNHL AffiliateAHL Affiliate
Eastern Conference
North Adirondack Thunder Glens Falls, New York Cool Insuring Arena 1990*Alex Loh New Jersey Devils Binghamton Devils
Brampton Beast Brampton, Ontario CAA Centre 20132014Spiros Anastas Ottawa Senators Belleville Senators
Maine Mariners Portland, Maine Cross Insurance Arena 1989*2003 Riley Armstrong New York Rangers Hartford Wolf Pack
Newfoundland Growlers St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador Mile One Centre 2018John Snowden Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Marlies
Reading Royals Reading, Pennsylvania Santander Arena 1991* Kirk MacDonald Philadelphia Flyers Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Worcester Railers Worcester, Massachusetts DCU Center 2017 David Cunniff New York Islanders Bridgeport Sound Tigers
South Atlanta Gladiators Duluth, Georgia Infinite Energy Arena 1995* Jeff Pyle Boston Bruins Providence Bruins
Florida Everblades Estero, Florida Hertz Arena 1998 Brad Ralph Nashville Predators Milwaukee Admirals
Greenville Swamp Rabbits Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena 1987*1988 Kevin Kerr Carolina Hurricanes Charlotte Checkers
Jacksonville Icemen Jacksonville, Florida VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena 1992*2012 Jason Christie Winnipeg Jets Manitoba Moose
Norfolk Admirals Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk Scope 1995*2003 Rod Taylor Independent
Orlando Solar Bears Orlando, Florida Amway Center 2012 Drake Berehowsky Tampa Bay Lightning Syracuse Crunch
South Carolina Stingrays North Charleston, South Carolina North Charleston Coliseum 1993Steve Bergin Washington Capitals Hershey Bears
Western Conference
Central Cincinnati Cyclones Cincinnati, Ohio Heritage Bank Center 1995* Matt Thomas Buffalo Sabres Rochester Americans
Fort Wayne Komets Fort Wayne, Indiana Allen County War Memorial Coliseum 1985*2012Ben Boudreau Vegas Golden Knights Henderson Silver Knights
Indy Fuel Indianapolis, Indiana Indiana Farmers Coliseum 2014Doug Christiansen Chicago Blackhawks Rockford IceHogs
Kalamazoo Wings Kalamazoo, Michigan Wings Event Center 1999*2009 Nick Bootland Vancouver Canucks Utica Comets
Toledo Walleye Toledo, Ohio Huntington Center 1991Dan Watson Detroit Red Wings Grand Rapids Griffins
Wheeling Nailers Wheeling, West Virginia WesBanco Arena 1981*1988Vacant Pittsburgh Penguins Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Mountain Allen Americans Allen, Texas Allen Event Center 20092014 Steve Martinson Minnesota Wild Iowa Wild
Idaho Steelheads Boise, Idaho CenturyLink Arena 19972003Everett Sheen Dallas Stars Texas Stars
Kansas City Mavericks Independence, Missouri Cable Dahmer Arena 20092014Tad O'Had Calgary Flames Stockton Heat
Rapid City Rush Rapid City, South Dakota Rushmore Plaza Civic Center 20082014 Daniel Tetrault Arizona Coyotes Tucson Roadrunners
Tulsa Oilers Tulsa, Oklahoma BOK Center 19922014 Rob Murray St. Louis Blues San Antonio Rampage
Utah Grizzlies West Valley City, Utah Maverik Center 1981*1988Tim Branham Colorado Avalanche Colorado Eagles
Wichita Thunder Wichita, Kansas Intrust Bank Arena 19922014Bruce Ramsay Edmonton Oilers Bakersfield Condors
  1. An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.

Future teams

Representatives from all potential expansion franchises, markets that have been granted expansion franchises and franchises that have suspended operations must attend the league's annual Board of Governors Meeting between seasons and provide progress reports on their situations in order to keep their ECHL franchise rights. For dormant and existing franchises, the Board of Governors votes whether or not to extend a franchise's league license until the next Board of Governors Meeting.

At the 2012 Board of Governors Meeting, the Board elected to limit the league to 26 teams, with an emphasis on adding teams to the Western Conference. [11] However, it was decided at the 2015 Board of Governors meeting that the cap should be expanded to 30 teams, hoping to eventually match the NHL and AHL's 30-team total. [12]

The ECHL listed Reno, Nevada, as a "future market" [13] and has been considered for an expansion team since the 2003 WCHL-ECHL merger, but efforts to establish a team in the market have been repeatedly thwarted by failed attempts to find or build a suitable arena. [14] Reno has not had a minor league hockey team since its WCHL franchise folded in 1998. After being listed for about a decade, Reno was eventually removed from the future markets' page in spring 2016. However, in September 2016, new ownership group called Reno Puck Club, LLC came forward and began negotiations with the Reno city council about bringing in an ECHL team. [15]

In 2020, Fred Festa, the former owner of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, announced that he had gained approval from the league to launch an expansion team in Richmond, Virginia, on the condition that the proposed arena project is approved by the city. [16] The arena development project was to replace the defunct Richmond Coliseum, which had been home to the previous Richmond team, the Richmond Renegades, [17] but the project was rejected again by the city council in February 2020. [18]

Defunct and relocated teams

Since starting with five franchises in its inaugural season, the ECHL has had dozens of franchises join and leave the league. Typically, these teams fold or relocate due to operation issues or financial losses. The Johnstown Chiefs became the last remaining founding franchise of the East Coast Hockey League to remain in its original city until it relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, following the completion of the 2009–10 season. [19]

While the ECHL has stated in recent years they would not grant voluntary suspensions of franchises for more than one year, both the Toledo Storm (now the Toledo Walleye) and Mississippi Sea Wolves (now defunct) were granted two-year suspensions—the Sea Wolves because of Hurricane Katrina and the Storm in order to demolish their present arena and construct a new one in downtown Toledo. The Mississippi Sea Wolves resumed play for the 2007–08 season, while the Toledo Walleye resumed play in their new arena for the 2009–10 season. The cost of suspending operations to an ECHL franchise was "about $100,000" in 2003, [20] and has remained unchanged as of the 2011–12 ECHL season. After the 2013–14 season the Las Vegas Wranglers voluntarily suspended operations for the 2014–15 season due to an inability to locate a new venue in a timely manner after losing their lease at the Orleans Arena. The Wranglers were authorized by the league to return for the 2015–16 season pending a successful search for a new arena. [21] However, after a year of searching for a new home, as well as NHL interest in the Las Vegas market, the Wranglers announced on January 30, 2015, that the team had folded and withdrawn their membership from the ECHL. [22]

On March 30, 2009, the Dayton Bombers and Mississippi Sea Wolves announced that they would suspend operations for the 2009–10 season. [23] Dayton would receive a franchise in the International Hockey League and Biloxi, Mississippi, would receive a team in the Southern Professional Hockey League that same year.

The Victoria Salmon Kings, prior to 2014 the only Canadian franchise in league history, folded following their Western Conference finals loss in the 2011 Kelly Cup playoffs to make way for a Western Hockey League, (Victoria Royals) franchise at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. RG Properties opted to withdraw the franchise from the ECHL with full approval from the league's Board of Governors, folding the franchise instead of selling the club's ECHL rights to be moved to another market, marking the end of a franchise that began as the Erie Panthers, one of the ECHL's charter teams. [6]

Seven former ECHL franchises have been directly replaced in their respective markets by American Hockey League franchises. The Greensboro Monarchs were the first, being replaced by the Carolina Monarchs in 1995. The Hampton Roads Admirals were the second, giving way to the Norfolk Admirals in 2000. The Peoria Rivermen were the third. In their case, the replacement franchise retained the Worcester IceCats history but assumed the Rivermen identity for their first AHL season of 2005–06. The Charlotte Checkers were the fourth, yielding to a franchise that retained the Albany River Rats history following the club's move to Charlotte following the 2009–10 season and assumed the Checkers identity. [24] In each of these cases, the ECHL franchise was relinquished to the league by its respective ownership group. In 2015, the three California franchises (Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, and Stockton Thunder) were displaced by the formation of an AHL Pacific Division. Each ECHL franchise involved in the territorial shift were either owned or purchased by their NHL affiliate prior to being relocated. [10]


Newfoundland GrowlersWorcester RailersWichita ThunderTulsa OilersRapid City RushQuad City MallardsKansas City MavericksIndy FuelBrampton BeastAllen AmericansSan Francisco BullsOrlando Solar Bears (ECHL)Fort Wayne KometsJacksonville IcemenEvansville IceMenColorado EaglesChicago ExpressKalamazoo WingsElmira JackalsPhoenix RoadRunnersSan Diego Gulls (1995–2006)Long Beach Ice DogsLas Vegas WranglersIdaho SteelheadsFresno FalconsNorfolk Admirals (ECHL)Bakersfield Condors (1998–2015)Maine Mariners (ECHL)Alaska Aces (ECHL)Columbia InfernoTrenton TitansGreensboro GeneralsArkansas RiverBladesGreenville GrrrowlFlorida EverbladesNew Orleans BrassJackson BanditsChesapeake IcebreakersPeoria Rivermen (ECHL)Mississippi Sea WolvesAtlanta GladiatorsMobile MysticksCincinnati CyclonesMiami MatadorsLouisville RiverFrogsLouisiana IceGators (ECHL)South Carolina StingraysRoanoke ExpressManchester Monarchs (ECHL)Ontario Reign (ECHL)Texas WildcattersTexas WildcattersCharlotte Checkers (1993–2010)Toledo WalleyeToledo StormAugusta LynxRaleigh IceCapsDayton BombersReading RoyalsColumbus ChillRichmond Renegades (ECHL)Jacksonville Lizard KingsLouisville IceHawksAdirondack ThunderStockton ThunderAtlantic City Boardwalk BulliesBirmingham Bulls (ECHL)Cincinnati CyclonesPensacola Ice PilotsNashville KnightsColumbus CottonmouthsHampton Roads AdmiralsGreensboro MonarchsUtah GrizzliesLexington Men O' WarMacon Whoopee (ECHL)Tallahassee Tiger SharksHuntsville BlastVirginia LancersPee Dee PrideKnoxville CherokeesGreenville Swamp RabbitsJohnstown ChiefsVictoria Salmon KingsBaton Rouge KingfishErie PanthersWheeling NailersCarolina ThunderbirdsECHL

Kelly Cup playoff format

For the 2012–13 season, eight teams still qualify in the Eastern Conference: the three division winners plus the next five teams in the conference. With the addition of the expansion franchise in San Francisco, the Board of Governors changed the Western Conference seeding such that eight teams qualify: two division winners and the next six teams in the conference. This eliminated the Western Conference first-round bye. [25]

Similar to the NHL at the time, the division winners were seeded as the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference and the top two seeds in the Western Conference; the conference winner faced the eighth seed, second faces seventh, third faces sixth and fourth faces fifth in the conference quarterfinal round. The winner of the 1st/8th series played the winner of the 4th/5th series while 2nd/7th winner played against the 3rd/6th winner in the conference semifinal series. The Board of Governors also elected to change the playoff format such that all rounds of the playoffs are now best of seven series. [25] For 2012-13, the Conference Finals and Kelly Cup Finals will use a two-referee system. [11]

Because of the late addition of the CHL teams for the 2014–15 season and its subsequent conference alignment, the top four teams in each division qualified for the playoffs and the first two playoff rounds were played within the divisions. [26]

For the realignment prior to the 2015–16 season, the playoffs changed once again to a six-division format. At the end of the regular season the top team in each division qualified for the playoffs and be seeded either 1, 2, or 3 based on highest point total earned in the season. Then the five non-division winning teams with the highest point totals in each conference qualified for the playoffs and be seeded 4 through 8. All four rounds will be a best-of-seven format. [27]

The alignment changed back to four divisions for the 2016–17 season, but the playoffs kept the divisional format. The top four teams in each division qualifies for the playoffs and play in division for the first two rounds. After the division finals, the winners then play the conference finals and followed by the Kelly Cup finals.

ECHL Hall of Fame

In celebration of the league's 20th year of play, the ECHL Board of Governors created the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2008, to recognize the achievements of players, coaches, and personnel who dedicated their careers to the league.

See also

Related Research Articles

American Hockey League ice hockey league in the United States and Canada

The American Hockey League (AHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in the United States and Canada that serves as the primary developmental league for the National Hockey League (NHL). Since the 2010–11 season, every team in the league has an affiliation agreement with one NHL team. When NHL teams do not have an AHL affiliate, players are assigned to AHL teams affiliated with other NHL teams. Twenty-seven AHL teams are located in the United States and the remaining four are in Canada. The league offices are located in Springfield, Massachusetts, and its current president is David Andrews.

Wheeling Nailers ice hockey team

The Wheeling Nailers are an ECHL ice hockey team based in Wheeling, West Virginia. They are the ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL.

Idaho Steelheads ice hockey team

The Idaho Steelheads are an American professional minor league ice hockey team based in Boise, Idaho. The team began playing in 1997 and has been a member of the ECHL since 2003.

Las Vegas Wranglers Ice hockey team

The Las Vegas Wranglers were a professional ice hockey team based in Las Vegas Valley. The Wranglers were members of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the ECHL. The Wranglers were founded as an expansion franchise in 2003 following the ECHL's takeover of the West Coast Hockey League.

Colorado Eagles

The Colorado Eagles are a professional minor league ice hockey team based in Loveland, Colorado. The Eagles play in the Pacific Division of the American Hockey League's Western Conference.

Stockton Thunder ice hockey team

The Stockton Thunder was a minor league professional ice hockey team that was based in Stockton, California and a member of the ECHL. The Stockton Arena was their home ice, with a capacity of 9,737. The team was an affiliate team of the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League in their final two seasons. The team was purchased by the Calgary Flames and relocated to Glens Falls, New York as the Flames relocated their American Hockey League team to Stockton to become the Stockton Heat.

Cincinnati Cyclones ice hockey team

The Cincinnati Cyclones are a professional ice hockey team based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The team is a member of the ECHL. Originally established in 1990, the team first played their games in the Cincinnati Gardens and now play at Heritage Bank Center. The Cyclones are a minor league affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester Americans.

The 2007–08 ECHL season was the 20th season of the ECHL.

The 2009–10 ECHL season was the 22nd season of the ECHL. It ran from October, 2009 until April, 2010, followed by the Kelly Cup playoffs which lasted until May 21, 2010 as the Cincinnati Cyclones won their second Kelly Cup championship in three years by defeating the Idaho Steelheads in five games. The league welcomed two franchises to the league for the 2009–10 season with the return of the Toledo Storm as the Toledo Walleye, who will play in the Lucas County Arena in Toledo, Ohio, after a two-year suspension of the franchise to allow for the construction of their new arena, and the admission of the Kalamazoo Wings as an expansion franchise who will play in Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The ECHL held its annual All-Star Game and Skills Challenge on January 19–20 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, home of the Ontario Reign.

Chicago Express ice hockey team

The Chicago Express were a professional ice hockey team located in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, serving the Chicago market. The Express were a member of the North Division of the ECHL's Eastern Conference. The team played its home games at the Sears Centre.

The 2011–12 ECHL season was the 24th season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 4, 2011 to March 31, 2012 and was followed by the 2012 Kelly Cup playoffs beginning on April 2, 2012.

2012–13 ECHL season Sports season

The 2012–13 ECHL season was the 25th season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 12, 2012 to March 30, 2013, with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. The All-Star Game, not held in 2011-12, was brought back and held on January 23, 2013 at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado, home of the Colorado Eagles.

The 2014–15 ECHL season was the 27th season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 17, 2014, to April 11, 2015, with the Kelly Cup playoffs following. Twenty-eight teams in 20 states and one Canadian province each played a 72-game schedule. The league was significantly expanded just before the season in October 2014 after a merger with its longtime rival, the Central Hockey League.

The 2015–16 AHL season is the 80th season of the American Hockey League. The regular season began on October 9, 2015, and ended on April 17, 2016. The 2016 Calder Cup playoffs follow the conclusion of the regular season. An attendance record was set with a league average of 5,982 spectators per game, surpassing the record set in 2004–05.

The 2015–16 ECHL season was the 28th season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 16, 2015 to April 9, 2016 with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. Twenty-eight teams in 21 states and one Canadian province will each play a 72-game schedule. The league alignment was significantly altered before the season when the American Hockey League announced the formation of a Pacific Division on January 30, 2015 displacing the ECHL teams that had been in California markets.

The 2017–18 ECHL season is the 30th season of the ECHL. The regular season ran from October 13, 2017 to April 8, 2018, with the 2018 Kelly Cup playoffs following. Twenty-seven teams in 21 states and one Canadian province each played a 72-game schedule.

The 2017–18 AHL season is the 82nd season of the American Hockey League. The regular season ran from October 6, 2017, to April 15, 2018. The 2018 Calder Cup playoffs followed the conclusion of the regular season. The Toronto Marlies won their first Calder Cup in seven games over the Texas Stars.

The 2018–19 ECHL season was the 31st season of the ECHL. The regular season is scheduled to run from October 12, 2018, to April 7, 2019, with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. Twenty-seven teams in 20 states and two Canadian provinces each play a 72-game schedule. The Kelly Cup was won by the Newfoundland Growlers in their inaugural season over the Toledo Walleye.

The 2019–20 ECHL season was the 32nd season of the ECHL. The regular season began in October 2019 to and was set to conclude in April 2020 with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. Twenty-six teams in 19 states and two Canadian provinces were each scheduled for 72 games.

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