CHICAGO - The ECHL announced on Tuesday Oct. 7, 2014 that the League has approved the Wichita Thunder's Membership application. The Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, Rapid City Rush, and Tulsa Oilers will also join the league. The seven expansion teams will begin play in the ECHL this season, giving the League 28 teams in 20 states and one Canadian province for its 27th season of operation, which begins on Friday, Oct. 17 and runs through Saturday, April 11. The applicants were approved at a special meeting of the ECHL Board of Governors in Chicago on Tuesday. “The ECHL is very pleased to welcome these new Members to the League,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “These additions strengthen our base in the center of the country and give the ECHL, for the first time, a true national presence. It expands our ability to act as a development league and more closely aligns our number of teams with both the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League. “There will be logistical challenges in the short term, however, in the long term, it is certainly in the best interest of the ECHL, the new Members and minor-league hockey in general,” McKenna added. Updates to the 2014-15 ECHL playing schedule, divisional alignment and the format for the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs will be released at a later date. The ECHL Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 21 teams in 14 states for its 27th season in 2014-15. There have been 541 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including 29 who made their NHL debuts in the 2013-14 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 28 of the 30 NHL teams in 2014-15, marking the 18th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter.