Quick & Casual
Sun Day: This being the inaugural year for the Chicago Express Hockey Club, tell us how the team and management came about and chose our area and the Sears Centre to make its home.
Chicago’s resurgence of interest in professional hockey was created mainly by the recent success of the Black Hawks. This being your team’s first year in competition for sports and specifically hockey fans in the Chicagoland area, what do you see as your niche when developing a fan base here with the Black Hawks and Chicago Wolves already established?
Bob Mills: We have lots of respect both for what the Blackhawks and Wolves have been able to accomplish. They are both terrific organizations. We believe that what the Hawks and Wolves have been able to do with growing hockey and the interest of hockey in this market has opened the doors for another affordable hockey option. We are focused on providing family entertainment for an affordable price.
SD: Tell us about the players and the league you play in.
BM: The ECHL is a “AA” Level hockey league whose primary focus is developing players for the NHL. Almost 500 players have graduated from the ECHL up to the NHL, with the vast majority of those coming in the last seven years, since the ECHL switched its focus to player development. Players in the league come mainly from Top Tier NCAA D-1 programs, as well as Canadian Major Juniors (such as the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Western Hockey League).
SD: How many other teams are there in your league and where are they based?
BM: The 20 teams in the league stretch from coast to coast, including teams in New York, Florida, Idaho, Utah, California, and Alaska.
SD: How many games will you play this season?
BM: ECHL seasons last from mid-October through the beginning of April, and include 72 games in the Regular season. The playoffs begin immediately upon conclusion of the regular season and can run through May.
SD: What was your source for finding your players?
BM: Players are scouted and recruited from the OHL, WHL, QMJHL, and NCAA D-1 Programs.
SD: Where are they from? Any local guys?
BM: Defenseman Josh Burrows (Prairie Grove) and Forward Mike Embach (Orland Park) are local. The rest of the players are from all over the United States and Canada.
SD: What’s their average age and number of years as professionals?
BM: There is no upper limit on how old a player can be, and it is rare to see a player under the age of 20. Players can range from playing their rookie year as a pro or be in their 10th or higher season.
SD: What’s their average pay and how does it compare to the pay of the players, say, on the Chicago Wolves?
BM: We do not disclose salaries, but I will say their job is to play hockey. They do not hold second jobs; they are here to play hockey and are paid as such.
SD: How do you plan to be involved with youth hockey in our area?
BM: We are already involved with the Leafs Program out of the Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee. The Leafs Program has also taken advantage of the opportunity to hold practices and games at the Sears Centre Arena.
SD: Most of the residents of Sun City, Huntley have families nearby, including children and grandchildren. What do you offer seniors in the way of special ticket pricing?
BM: We offer discounted tickets for every game to anyone age 65 or wiser, or under the age of 12. Children under 2 may enter free of charge, provided the parents or guardians are comfortable with holding the child on their lap. We also have discounts for groups of 15 or more people, making it an increased way to save money and bring plenty of friends and family. For more information on groups, call 224-220-1333 or visit us at www.ChicagoExpressHockey.com