|No. of teams||28|
|Country(ies)||United States (27 teams)|
Canada (1 team)
|Most recent champion(s)||Florida Everblades (2023)|
|Most championship(s)||(tie) Alaska Aces, Hampton Roads Admirals and|
South Carolina Stingrays (3)
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 Canada. It is generally regarded as a tier below the American Hockey League. The ECHL's official website lists the league as "The Premier AA" league of hockey in North America, because most teams serve as feeder teams for American Hockey League teams. Hockey does not use letter-designations to define their league's levels, but the ECHL has tried for years to establish such a pecking order, with some success.
The ECHL, along with 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 either in the AHL or the ECHL.
The Worcester Railers being announced as an expansion team for 2017-18, the Owensboro, Kentucky team were scheduled to take to the ice for 2017-18 however the city of Owensboro objected to the cost of the new facility proposed and then the ownership of the team had the option to renovate the Owensboro Sportscenter but declined on that option and the future of the team is now uncertain, and an application from a group in Portland, Maine for a team also for 2017-18 being on file. The league has stated that it would like to be in line with the NHL and the AHL in having the same number of teams. The NHL will be having 31 teams for the 2017-18 season with the addition of an expansion team in Las Vegas. The ownership of the Las Vegas team has stated that it will probably share its AHL affiliate for the first season and work on an ECHL affiliate in due time at the team is starting from scratch in terms of players. The league had previously announced its final decision on expansion teams for 2017-18 would be made in Septermber of 2016; but the IceMen situation has complicated the process as interest has also been received from Prescott Valley, Arizona for a team, that city previously had a team in the former Central Hockey League from 2006 to 2014 and had ceased operations in the months leading up to the ECHL/CHL merger. Any decision on expansion franchises for the 2017-18 are expected to be made at the January 2017 owners' meeting.
The proposed Portland team is trying to get a couple more investors on board before signing a lease with the city for use of the Cross Insurance Arena in time to get approval from the league in January to be able to play for the 2017-18 season. The team would be formally announced on June 16, 2017. The team will be called the Maine Mariners.
The Alaska Aces organization announced on February 23, 2017 that the team would be ceasing operations at the end of the 2016-17 season as the team was dealing with heavy losses financially due to a $600,000 reduction in sponsor ship revenue and $262,000 reduction in season ticket sales. The state's economy has been in an extended downturn involving the los of thousands of jobs. The team was subsidizing the travel expenses for visiting teams due to the expense of travel to the state. The team had operated without local or state subsidies and the ownership had put additional investments into the team in an attempt to keep the team in operation. Managing partner of the ownership group Terry Parks stated “We worked through every possible solution that might have avoided this outcome but it became painfully obvious to us that, in this economy, a professional hockey team is not sustainable in Alaska.”
The Worcester expansion team may possibly have run into a minor hitch with playing at the DCU Center as the Holy Cross Crusaders are reported to be moving into the arena as part of a possible entry into the NCAA Division I Hockey East possibly as early as for the 2017-18 season (and subsequent elevation of their women's program to Division I as required by accepting Hockey East membership) as Hockey East has a minimum seating capacity requirement of 4,000 and the Hart Center is well below that figure and the DCU Center is the only hockey facility in the immediate area with that large of a capacity. In February 2017, the Boston Bruins announced that they were extending their relationship with the Atlanta Gladiators which ended speculation that the team would possibly be affiliated with the Bruins organization. The ownership of the Providence Bruins have made some noise about being unhappy with the team going into Worcester as they felt that the area was part of their drawing area to begin with as both Providence and Worcester are on the outskirts of the greater Boston area and an affiliation with the Bruins was speculated to be vital to the success of the ECHL in Worcester as the southeastern New England area has a history of not supporting minor league teams that are not affiliated with the Boston major league teams, such as the failure of the AHL in both Worcester and Lowell, but the support of the Providence Bruins, Pawtucket Red Sox and the Lowell Spinners baseball teams who are affiliated withe the Boston Red Sox.
The Evansville franchise was sold in early February 2017 to a group that was moving the team to the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida where they will become the Jacksonville IceMen.
In mid-June of 2017 the Alaska Aces were sold to the parent company of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and are to be relocated to the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine. The team will be renamed and will take to the ice for the 2018-19 season as time did not allow for the league and team be ready to be worked in to a schedule for 2017-18.
The city of St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador is working on an expansion team to begin play at the Mile One Centre for the 2018-19 season to replace the AHL level St. John's IceCaps who moved to Laval, Quebec after the 2016-17 season. The approval of the team was announced on March 13, 2018.
The Quad City Mallards announced on March 13, 2018 that the team would be ceasing operations at the end of the 2017-18 season.
The Manchester Monarchs announced that they would be ceasing operations in May of 2019 and the league Board of Governors then voted to terminate the membership of the team .
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 teams, the Carolina Thunderbirds (now the Wheeling Nailers), the Erie Panthers (now the Victoria Salmon Kings), the Johnstown Chiefs, the Knoxville Cherokees (the franchise, as the Pee Dee Pride, is currently suspended, to resume play in Conway, South Carolina in 2009–10), and the Virginia Lancers (now the Utah Grizzlies).
Since that time, the ECHL has met with a mixture of failures and successes, reaching its largest size in 2003 of 31 teams before being reduced to 28 teams for the 2004 season. In September 2002, the West Coast Hockey League ceased operations, and the ECHL Board of Governors approved membership applications from the Anchorage (now 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 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.
The teams from the defunct lower-level WCHL, along with Las Vegas, joined as expansion teams for the ECHL’s 16th season in 2003–04. In a change reflective of the nationwide presence of the ECHL, the East Coast Hockey League changed its name to simply ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The league, because of geographical anomalies, continued to use unbalanced conferences and divisions, which has in the past made for some extremely varied playoff formats and limited interconference play. Due to travel costs, the league has attempted to placate owners in keeping those costs down, which has led to the sometimes-odd playoff structures. The league as of 2008; consisted of nine West Coast-based teams in the National Conference, and twelve eastern, midwestern and southern teams in the American Conference.
In the past several years, 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. In 2008, the league introduced the ECHL toolbar for internet browsers which gave users short cut access to statistics, scores, transactions, and news updates.
The annual ECHL Board of Governors Meeting was held on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 in Henderson, Nevada. The Board of Governors approved changes to the names of the conferences and divisions. The American Conference gets changed to the Eastern Conference and the National Conference gets changed to the Western Conference. The East Division gets changed to the Atlantic Division and the West Division gets changed to the Mountain Division. 
Addition of Central Hockey League teams (for 2014-15 season)
The league held a Board of Governors Meeting on October 7, 2014 and at this meeting the league added the seven remaining members of the Central Hockey League as expansion teams for the 2014-15 ECHL season. This gave the league a balanced, 28 team league with 2 conferences with 2-seven team divisions. On October 9th, the league approved a new realignment and playoff format for the 2014-15 season. The schedule was released on October 13th with the former CHL teams now playing a 72-game schedule.
Fallout from formation of AHL's Pacific Division
The ECHL lost and gained several cities when the AHL added a Pacific Division for the 2015-16 season. The league lost teams in Bakersfield, Stockton, and Ontario, California. The league gained teams in Manchester, New Hampshire, Glens Falls, New York, and returned to Norfolk, Virginia.
2016-17 to 2018-19 changes
The Evansville IceMen announced they would relocate to Owensboro, Kentucky for the 2016-17 season. The team needed to put in extensive repairs to the arena that they will be playing in the Owensboro Sports Center. The team later decided to take the 2016-17 season off in order to complete the renovations. The ownership of the arena in Evansville immediately began working on obtaining an expansion franchise in the Southern Professional Hockey League which came to fruition on March 16th. An article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette of July 29, 2016 openly questioned if the team will ever take to the ice in Owensboro. The new facility that would cost between $20 and 25 million will not come to fruition (according to TV station WFIE) and the existing arena in Owensboro, the Sportscenter would require about $9 million in renovations to make it usable for the team. This would require a plan to be in place by the end of September 2016 for the arena to be ready to be used for the 2017-18 season.
A feasibility study was performed in mid to late 2016 to see if there was enough of a population base on the Delmarva peninsula in the area of Ocean City, Maryland to determine if a 6,200 seat arena was worth being built. The plan was for it to become the home of an ECHL team. In early 2017 the study determined it would not be practical as the community itself had a little over 7,000 year round residents (as the area is a major summer vacation destination) and the Salisbury, MD-DE Metropolitan Statistical Area had a little over 370,000 residents with nearby Salisbury accounting for about 10% of the total.
As part of the fall out from the Arizona Coyotes moving their AHL affiliate to Tucson, Arizona from Springfield, Massachusetts and then the Portland Pirates being sold to a group that is trying to move the team to Springfield for the 2016-17 season; The soon to be former owner of the AHL's Pirates announced that he was planning on bringing an ECHL team to Portland, Maine for the 2017-18 season. No word on whether it would be an expansion team or a relocated team.
The Missouri Mavericks were rumored to be either moving up to the American Hockey League or disbanding to make for a team that was proposed to be based out of the Sprint Center in nearby Kansas City, Missouri. In mid-March 2017 the owner of the team announced that they would be changing their name to the Kansas City Mavericks once the 2016-17 season ends. It was further stated that the team will not be changing leagues or arenas.
The Colorado Eagles will relinquish their membership in the league after the conclusion of their 2017-18 season as they have been accepted as an expansion member of the American Hockey League for the 2018-19 season.
In December of 2017, the city of St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador had emerged as a candidate for an expansion team for the 2018-19 season. The proposed ownership group is working on getting a team to play in Mile One Stadium. The arena's current main tenant, the St. John's Edge of the National Basketball League of Canada has ownership that has a lease that gives them a 45-day window to obtain a hockey team to play out of the arena as well in the event another group wants to put a hockey team in the arena on top of an 18-month window that was already set to get another team into the arena. The 45 day window expires on January 29, 2018. The only mention from the group was the possibility of a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League expansion team and that enough progress was not made to bring a QMJHL team to the arena. The ECHL team would be aligned with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL. St. John's was previously home to the St. John's Maple Leafs who were the American Hockey League affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1991 to 2005. The most recent hockey team to call St. John's home was the St. John's IceCaps of the AHL from 2011 to 2017.
Alignment and affiliations as of July 3, 2021. Not all affiliations for the 2021–22 season have been announced or extended.
- An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.
All-Time Listing of Teams
2015 Kelly Cup playoff format
With the addition of the teams from the CHL the division alignment was changed to Eastern and Western Conferences (each containing two-seven team divisions (North and East in the Eastern Conference and Central and Pacific in the Western Conference). The top four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds of the playoffs would be within the division with the match ups being 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3. with the first round winners meeting in the diviosion final. The two division champions meet for the conference championship and the conference champions meeting for the Kelly Cup. All four rounds of the playoffs are best-of-seven.
- Reno, Nevada, start date unknown; no announcement of arena construction has been mad some reports have listed the teams name as being the Reno Raiders. The rights to the franchise were purchased by a man named Larry Leasure of Boise, ID in 2000. He retained the rights to the franchise when the league was absorbed by the ECHL. He was hoping to secure a lease at a suitable arena. The previous team played at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, which functions more so as a convention/meeting facility than a sports venue. The University of Nevada, Reno has the Lawlor Events Center which seats over 11,000 for basketball but makes no mention of events with ice so and the facility would require major renovations for use as a hockey rink. No progress has been made on a new arena. As of the 2014-15 season the franchise is still "inactive". This city has become one of the candidates for the AHL affiliate of the Las Vegas expansion team.
- Medford, New York had a proposal on the table in 2018 for an arena with a capacity of 7,500 on the site of a former movie theater. The proposal fell apart as a car dealer was interested in the lot of land that just involved the single lot involving just the theater, but the arena proposal needed other land acquisitions. The remodeling of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the construction of the new arena in nearby Elmont, New York which would put an NHL team close by and the possibility existed at the time that the Coliseum could possibly become the home of the Islanders AHL affiliate effectively spelled the end of any effort to get the arena beyond the proposal stage.
The league has also been having several teams move to replace relocated AHL teams over the past few years. This trend is expected to continue as several western NHL teams still have their AHL affilates in the east and several other teams in the league are looking to move their AHL affiliate closer to the NHL team.
- For the 2019–20 season, 25 of 31 National Hockey League teams have affiliations with an ECHL team 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 ECHL will probably be expanded to up to 32 teams in the not too distant future to match the NHL and AHL in tems of one to one affiliations.
- Athens, Georgia began construction on a new arena in May of 2022. The arena is due to become the home of the Athens ECHL team for the 2023-24 season.
Defunct and relocated teams
Teams that no longer play within the ECHL are listed below. Many of the former teams which had not moved are considered to have suspended operations and the franchises placed for sale, but in reality are and were simply financial failures, similar to defunct teams in all other minor league sports histories.
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 2007–2008 season, while the Toledo Walleye resumed play in their new arena for the 2009–2010 season.
On March 30, 2009, the Dayton Bombers and Mississippi Sea Wolves announced that they would suspend operations for the 2009–10 season, while the Phoenix RoadRunners announced that they will cease operations at the end of the 2008–09 season. Dayton would receive a franchise in the International Hockey League and Biloxi, MS would receive a team in the Southern Professional Hockey League the following year.
On February 15, 2010, the Tribune-Democrat reported that the Johnstown Chiefs, the only remaining founding franchise of the East Coast Hockey League to remain in its original city, would be relocating to Greenville, South Carolina, the former home of the Greenville Grrrowl (1998-2006) following the completion of the 2009-10 season.
Six former ECHL franchises have moved up to the American Hockey League. The Hampton Roads Admirals were the first, becoming the Norfolk Admirals in 2000, the Peoria Rivermen were the second, assuming the Worcester IceCats history but maintaining the Rivermen identity for their first AHL season of 2005-06, and the Charlotte Checkers were the third, assuming the Albany River Rats history following the club's move to Charlotte following the 2009-10 season. The new Charlotte AHL team will retain the Checkers identity. The fomation of a west coast division in the AHL for the 2015-16 season added three more teams that were replacing former ECHL teams (Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, Stockton Thunder (renamed Heat))
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. Hall of Fame members are selected in four categories: Player, Developmental Player, Builder, and Referee/Linesman. Players must have concluded their career as an active player for a minimum of three playing seasons, though not continuous or full seasons. Development Players must have begun their career in the ECHL and went on to a distinguished career in the NHL, playing a minimum of 260 regular season games in the NHL, AHL and ECHL. Builders may be active or inactive whereas Referee/Linesman must have concluded their active officiating career for a minimum of three playing seasons.
No more than five candidates are elected to the Hall of Fame each year with no more than three Players, one Developmental Player, two Builders and one Referee/Linesman. The Builder and the Referee/Linesman categories are dependent upon the number of candidates in the Player category.
The nomination and subsequent selection of candidates is determined by the ECHL Hall of Fame Selection Committee which is appointed by the ECHL.
The ECHL Hall of Fame Inaugural Class was inducted during the 2008 ECHL All-Star Game festivities at Stockton Arena in Stockton, California and included ECHL founder Henry Brabham, the ECHL's first commissioner Patrick J. Kelly, and former players Nick Vitucci and Chris Valicevic
List of Hall of Famers
List of Hall of Famers
- Press Release (October 13, 2008). Did You Know?. ECHL.
- Press Release (July 14, 2008). ECHL Toolbar Available Now. ECHL.
- | url = http://echl.com/cgi-bin/mpublic.cgi?action=show_news&cat=1&id=22265}
- ECHL Standings - Division.
- Habs name Trois-Rivieres ECHL affiliate (January 19, 2021).
- NHL/AHL AFFILIATIONS.
- Press Release (March 30, 2009). ECHL Concludes Mid-Season Board of Governors Meeting. ECHL.
- Mastovich, Mike (February 15, 2010). Chiefs plan to move franchise to South Carolina. Tribune-Democrat.
- ECHL Press Release (January 23, 2008). Inaugural ECHL Hall Of Fame Class Announced. ECHL.com. Retrieved on April 28, 2013.
- ECHL Press Release (November 5, 2008). 2009 ECHL Hall Of Fame Class is Brophy, Cullen, Nemeth, Taylor. ECHL. Retrieved on May 6, 2013.
- J.P. Hoornstra (December 3, 2009). 2010 ECHL Hall Of Fame announced. Inside SoCal. Retrieved on May 6, 2013.
- ECHL Press Release (November 19, 2010). ECHL Announces 2011 ECHL Hall Of Fame Class. Arena Digest. Retrieved on May 6, 2013.
- Mike Ashmore (January 19, 2012). ECHL Alumni Profile - Bob Woods. ECHL. Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
- 2012 ECHL Hall of Fame is Coffey, Gorski, Marks, Seitz, and Woods. ECHL (December 1, 2011). Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
- ECHL Press Release (December 1, 2011). 2012 ECHL Hall Of Fame is Coffey, Gorski, Marks, Seitz, and Woods. ECHL. Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
- Whitney Baumgartner (December 4, 2011). Head Coach Marks To Be Inducted Into The 2012 ECHL Hall Of Fame. Fargo Force. Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
- ECHL Press Release (January 18, 2013). Seitz to Enter ECHL Hall of Fame. ECHL.com. Retrieved on April 28, 2013.
- ECHL Announces 2013 Hall Of Fame Class. Colorado Eagles (December 3, 2012). Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
- Paul De Los Santos (December 25, 2012). Former Wranglers goalie made Las Vegas his home, shined in last stop of career. Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
- Nate Haeni (December 3, 2012). Poapst among 2013 ECHL Hall Of Fame Class. Rockford IceHogs. Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
- Shawn Rine (December 4, 2012). Schwartz A Worthy Choice. The Intelligencer. Retrieved on May 5, 2013.
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