DULUTH, Ga. – After the announcement in February 2018 that Brian McKenna would step down as the commissioner of the ECHL, there was an obvious choice for his replacement. Ryan Crelin joined the ECHL in 2005 as an intern and worked his way up the ranks, most recently as the league’s Chief Operating Officer and was designated by the Board of Governors to succeed McKenna in May 2018.
Crelin is making his initial rounds as commissioner of the 27 ECHL organizations and was in Atlanta Friday night to attend the Greenville Swamp Rabbits game against the Gladiators.
The Sin Bin: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced personally since your promotion to Commissioner?
Ryan Crelin: I think it’s the added travel, I have been with the league for 13 years and I traveled quite a bit, but this is much more travel intensive and with that said, I am still transitioning some of the responsibilities of my old job so I am doubling up some, but we are almost into December and all is good.
TSB: What have your thoughts and observations from your first six months on the job?
RC: The minor league hockey landscape is always changing, one of my focuses will be on stability and supporting our teams in their markets. When I look ahead, I think the biggest impact is our community value, what we bring from a hockey standpoint, from an entertainment standpoint, and from a social standpoint – so that’s going to be my focus. That’s the biggest challenge, how do we get the word out, how do we get people to support and come out. Many people in our community have never experienced a hockey game, so how do we get them into the building and allow them to experience our game and become fans.
TSB: Where do you see the Gladiators organization and what is your vision for them going forward?
RC: This team up in Gwinnett has been here for 16 years now and there’s a lot to be said about population and having this community within local 35-mile radius embrace them as their hometown team, that’s going to be the key, but we are here in year 16 and we just have to keep it going. We can never take the foot off the gas pedal, there is always an opportunity to create new hockey fans and we can’t forget that.
TSB: How long does it take to create a hockey fan?
RC: Sometimes it has been about a period, they get in, they get hooked, they see the action and how fast it moves. You got to get them into the building and allow them to see the pace of it and the aggressiveness of it. Once you get them in the building, you have to educate them about the game too.
Crelin has an M.B.A. in finance and taxation from Rutgers University and a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall in sports management, where he also played on the Pirates hockey team.
While he doesn’t have a favorite ECHL team, “all of them are my favorites,” he quipped, he did share that the Reading Royals are the closest franchise to his home and the most convenient from him to attend.
After his visit to Atlanta, he was headed north to see the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Saturday night. There is always a place to be next when you are a true road warrior and the face of leadership for the league.