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Current season or competition:
2009-10 ECHL season
East Coast Hockey League.svg
ECHL logo
Sport Ice hockey
Founded 1988
No. of teams 20
Country(ies) United States (19 teams)
Canada (1 team)
Most recent champion(s) South Carolina Stingrays
Most championships (tie) Hampton Roads Admirals and
South Carolina Stingrays (3)
Official website

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, 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.[citation needed]

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.[1]



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 (Winston-Salem, North) Carolina Thunderbirds (now the Wheeling Nailers), the Erie Panthers (now the Victoria Salmon Kings), the Johnstown Chiefs (moving to Greenville, SC), the Knoxville Cherokees (the franchise ceased operations after 2005), and the Virginia Lancers (now the Utah Grizzlies).

2009-10 ECHL map update4.png

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, continues 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 currently (as of 2008) consists of nine West Coast-based teams in the National Conference, and twelve eastern, midwestern and southern teams in the American Conference.

In the past four 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.[2]


National Conference
Division Team Arena City/area NHL affiliate(s) AHL affiliate(s)
Pacific Bakersfield Condors Rabobank Arena Bakersfield, CA Anaheim Ducks
Las Vegas Wranglers Orleans Arena Las Vegas, NV Phoenix Coyotes San Antonio Rampage
Ontario Reign Citizens Business Bank Arena Ontario, CA Los Angeles Kings Manchester Monarchs
Stockton Thunder Stockton Arena Stockton, CA San Jose Sharks
Edmonton Oilers
Worcester Sharks
Springfield Falcons
West Alaska Aces Sullivan Arena Anchorage, AK St. Louis Blues Peoria Rivermen
Idaho Steelheads Qwest Arena Boise, ID Dallas Stars Texas Stars
Utah Grizzlies E Center West Valley City, UT New York Islanders
Calgary Flames
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Abbotsford Heat
Victoria Salmon Kings Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre Victoria, BC Vancouver Canucks Manitoba Moose
American Conference
Division Team Arena City/area NHL affiliate(s) AHL affiliate(s)
East Elmira Jackals First Arena Elmira, NY Ottawa Senators Binghamton Senators
Johnstown Chiefs Cambria County War Memorial Arena Johnstown, PA Minnesota Wild Houston Aeros
Reading Royals Sovereign Center Reading, PA Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins
Toronto Marlies
Providence Bruins
Trenton Devils Sun National Bank Center Trenton, NJ New Jersey Devils Lowell Devils
North Cincinnati Cyclones US Bank Arena Cincinnati, OH Montreal Canadiens
Nashville Predators
Hamilton Bulldogs
Milwaukee Admirals
Kalamazoo Wings Wings Stadium Kalamazoo, MI Philadelphia Flyers
San Jose Sharks
Adirondack Phantoms
Worcester Sharks
Toledo Walleye Lucas County Arena Toledo, OH Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Blackhawks
Grand Rapids Griffins
Rockford IceHogs
Wheeling Nailers WesBanco Arena Wheeling, WV Pittsburgh Penguins Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
South Charlotte Checkers Time Warner Cable Arena Charlotte, NC New York Rangers
Colorado Avalanche
Hartford Wolf Pack
Lake Erie Monsters
Florida Everblades Germain Arena Estero, FL Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Albany River Rats
Rochester Americans
Gwinnett Gladiators Arena at Gwinnett Center Duluth, GA Atlanta Thrashers
Columbus Blue Jackets
Chicago Wolves
Syracuse Crunch
South Carolina Stingrays North Charleston Coliseum North Charleston, SC Washington Capitals Hershey Bears

2010 Kelly Cup playoff format

In the National Conference, seven teams qualify: two division winners and the next five teams in the conference. The division winner with the best record (most points) receives a bye to the conference semifinal round while the other division winner is seeded second and plays the seventh ranked team in a best of five series. The third seed plays against the sixth while the fourth plays the fifth seed in a best of five series. The top seed plays the winner of the winner of the fourth/fifth series and the other two winners face each other in a best of seven series.

In the American Conference, eight teams qualify: the three division winners plus the next five teams in the conference. Similar to the NHL the division winners will be the top three seeds; the conference winner vs the eighth seed, second vs seventh, third vs sixth and fourth vs fifth in the best of five conference semifinal. The winner of the 1st/8th series will play the winner of the 4th/5th series while 2nd/7th winner plays against the 3rd/6th winner in a best of seven conference semifinal series.

The conference finals and the Kelly Cup final are best of seven series.[3]

Future teams

One team is scheduled to relocate for the 2009–10 season and two which were previously under suspension should return with new home arenas for the 2010–11 season.[4]

  • Columbia Inferno, 2011–12; granted a one-year voluntary suspension while the team attempts to find a new home arena, then granted a one-year extension onto their voluntary suspension as they attempt to construct a new arena to host the franchise.[6]
  • Reno, Nevada, start date unknown; no announcement of arena construction has been made.

In an article in the summer of 2009, Commissioner Brian McKenna said "There are some other ones in places like Greenville, SC, Richmond, VA, Greensboro, NC, San Diego, CA Fresno, CA some of those markets make sense. If there’s an interested ownership group, if there’s a good business plan and proper lead time, I think all those markets would be of interest to us in the future."[7]

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.[8] 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.[5]

Three 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 will be 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.[9]

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

Year Name Position/role
2008 Henry Brabham ECHL founder
Patrick J. Kelly Commissioner (1988-96)
Chris Valicevic Defenceman
Nick Vitucci Goaltender
2009 John Brophy Head coach
Blake Cullen Owner (Hampton Roads Admirals)
Tom Nemeth Defenceman
Rod Taylor Left winger
2010 Cam Brown Left winger
E.A. "Bud" Gingher Board of Governors Chairman (1992-95) Owner (Dayton Bombers)
Olaf Kölzig Goaltender
Darryl Noren Centre

See also


External links


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