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Published: Wednesday, 10/13/2010

Conferences, divisions in ECHL get new names

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The ECHL has announced a few changes for the 2010-11 season.

The league's board of governors changed the names of the conferences and some of the divisions.

Toledo now will be playing in the Eastern Conference, which was formerly known as the American Conference. But the Walleye still will compete in the North Division along with Cincinnati, Kalamazoo, and Wheeling.

One of the other divisions in Toledo's conference also has been changed. The East Division is now the Atlantic Division and consists of Elmira, Reading, and Trenton. The Johnstown Chiefs, perhaps the most well known minor league hockey team, no longer has an ECHL franchise. That leaves the Atlantic Division with just three teams.

The South Division name remains intact, but its makeup has been altered. Florida, Gwinnett, and South Carolina are joined by Greenville. The ECHL team in Charlotte, which now has an American Hockey League franchise, has been replaced by Greenville. The team in Greenville, which is now called the Road Warriors, is the former Johnstown organization which relocated to South Carolina this year.

The ECHL's other conference also has been renamed. The National Conference is now known as the Western Conference. It consists of a Mountain Division (formerly West Division) and a Pacific Division. The teams in the Mountain Division are Alaska, Idaho, Utah, and Victoria. The

Pacific Division consists of Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Stockton and Ontario, Calif.

CHANGES MADE: The format for the 2011 ECHL All-Star Classic also has been tweaked.

This year's game will feature the host team, Bakersfield, playing against a team of ECHL All-Stars.

The coach with the highest winning percentage at the break will be the head coach of the visiting team and the assistant will be selected based on votes by peers. The equipment manager and athletic trainer for the visiting all-star team will be voted on by their peers.

The coaching staff, athletic trainer, and equipment manager of the host team will remain in place. If Bakersfield does not have 18 active skaters due to injury or call-up, players may be added based on voting.

The board also voted to eliminate the scraping of the ice prior to a shootout. If a game remains tied after the five-minute overtime period, the ice will not be cleaned and it will go directly to the shootout.

PLAYOFFS THE SAME: The format for the 2011 Kelly Cup playoffs remains unaltered.

Eight of the 11 teams in the Eastern Conference will earn postseason berths. The first-place teams in the three divisions with qualify along with the next five with the most points.

In the Western Conference, seven of the eight teams will earn postseason berths. The first round in each conference will be a best-of-five series with each subsequent rounds being a best-of-seven series.

PENALTY CHANGE: The ECHL has adopted the NHL's rule for an illegal check to the head.

A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted. A major penalty and automatic game misconduct will be called and the referee may assess a match penalty if is determined the player attempted to deliberately injure his opponent. Any player that incurs a total of two game misconducts under this rule will be suspended automatically for a game.



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