|Current season, competition or edition:|
2022–23 ECHL season
|No. of teams||28|
|Country||United States (26 teams)|
Canada (2 teams)
|Florida Everblades (2nd title)|
|Most titles|| Alaska Aces,|
Hampton Roads Admirals, and
South Carolina Stingrays (3 each)
|TV partner(s)||Canada (English): Sportsnet/Sportsnet One |
Canada (French): TVA Sports
United States: NHL Network
|Official website||Official website|
The ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) is a mid-level professional ice hockey league based in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, with teams scattered across the United States and Canada. It is a tier below the American Hockey League (AHL).
The ECHL and the AHL are the only minor leagues recognized by the collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey League (NHL) 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 in either the ECHL or the AHL.Additionally, the league's players are represented by the Professional Hockey Players' Association in negotiations with the ECHL itself. Some 662 players have played at least one game in the NHL after appearing in the ECHL.
For the 2022–23 season, 28 of the 32 NHL teams have affiliations with an ECHL teamwith only the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets having no official ECHL affiliations. The offseason typically has many affiliation changes between NHL and ECHL teams. NHL teams do sometimes lend contracted players to ECHL teams with whom they have no affiliation agreements for development and increased playing time.
The league's regular season typically begins in October and ends in April, followed by the Kelly Cup playoffs. The most recent playoff champions are the Florida Everblades in 2022.
The league, which combined teams from the defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League and All-American Hockey League, began to play as the East Coast Hockey League in 1988 with five teams— the (Winston-Salem, North) Carolina Thunderbirds (now the Wheeling Nailers); the Erie Panthers (folded in 2011 as the Victoria Salmon Kings); the Johnstown Chiefs (now the Greenville Swamp Rabbits); the Knoxville Cherokees (ceased operations as the Pee Dee Pride in 2005; folded in 2009 following failed relocation efforts); and the Virginia Lancers (now the Utah Grizzlies).
In 2003, the West Coast Hockey League ceased operations, and the ECHL board of governors approved membership applications from the Anchorage/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 potential 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. In a change reflective of the league's now-nationwide presence, the East Coast Hockey League shortened its name to the orphan initialism ECHL on May 19, 2003. The ECHL reached its largest size to date (31 teams) that season before being reduced to 28 teams for the 2004–05 season.
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 (a subsidiary of America One Broadcasting). In 2008, the league introduced the ECHL toolbar for internet browsers which gave users short cut access to statistics, scores, transactions, and news updates.
At the annual ECHL Board of Governors meeting on June 15, 2010, in Henderson, Nevada, the Board of Governors approved changes to the names of the conferences and divisions. The former American Conference (comprising eleven East Coast and Midwest teams) was renamed the Eastern Conference, while the National Conference (consisting of 8 West Coast teams, including the league's only Canadian team at the time) was re-designated the Western Conference. Within the Eastern Conference, the East Division was renamed the Atlantic Division, and the Western Conference's former West Division was dubbed the Mountain Division.
The league lost its only Canadian team with the folding of the Victoria Salmon Kings subsequent to the 2010–11 season,but increased to 20 teams for the 2011–12 season with the addition of the expansion franchise Chicago Express and the Colorado Eagles who previously played in the Central Hockey League.
With the folding of the Chicago Express at the conclusion of the 2011–12 season and the announcement of expansion franchises in Orlando, San Francisco, Evansville, and Fort Wayne (both in Indiana and both from the Central Hockey League) the league played the 2012–13 season with 23 teams. That number dropped to 22 for the 2013–14 season with the folding of the Trenton Titans and subsequently fell to 21 with the mid-season folding of the San Francisco Bulls on January 27, 2014.
On October 7, 2014, the ECHL announced that the seven remaining active members of the Central Hockey League (the Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Quad City Mallards, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder) would be admitted as new members for the 2014–15 season. The addition of the former CHL teams plus the expansion Indy Fuel raised the number of teams to 28 and placed a team in Canada for the first time since 2011.
Before the 2015–16 season, the AHL's creation of a Pacific Division led the three California ECHL teams to relocate to former AHL cities with the Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, and Stockton Thunder relocating to become the Norfolk Admirals, Manchester Monarchs, and Adirondack Thunder, respectively.By the 2018–19 season, the ECHL had also expanded into other markets recently vacated by the AHL in the Maine Mariners, Newfoundland Growlers, and Worcester Railers.
Alignment, affiliations, and locations for the 2022–23 season.
|Division||Team||City||Arena||Founded||Joined||Head coach||NHL affiliate||AHL affiliate|
|North||Adirondack Thunder||Glens Falls, New York||Cool Insuring Arena||1990*||Pete MacArthur||New Jersey Devils||Utica Comets|
|Maine Mariners||Portland, Maine||Cross Insurance Arena||1989*||2003||Terrence Wallin||Boston Bruins||Providence Bruins|
|Newfoundland Growlers||St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador||Mary Brown's Centre||2018||Eric Wellwood||Toronto Maple Leafs||Toronto Marlies|
|Norfolk Admirals||Norfolk, Virginia||Norfolk Scope||1995*||2003||Rod Taylor||Carolina Hurricanes||Chicago Wolves|
|Reading Royals||Reading, Pennsylvania||Santander Arena||1991*||James Henry||Philadelphia Flyers||Lehigh Valley Phantoms|
|Trois-Rivières Lions||Trois-Rivières, Quebec||Colisée Vidéotron||2021||Éric Bélanger||Montreal Canadiens||Laval Rocket|
|Worcester Railers||Worcester, Massachusetts||DCU Center||2017||David Cunniff||New York Islanders||Bridgeport Islanders|
|South||Atlanta Gladiators||Duluth, Georgia||Gas South Arena||1995*||Jeff Pyle||Arizona Coyotes||Tucson Roadrunners|
|Florida Everblades||Estero, Florida||Hertz Arena||1998||Brad Ralph||Florida Panthers||Charlotte Checkers|
|Greenville Swamp Rabbits||Greenville, South Carolina||Bon Secours Wellness Arena||1987*||1988||Andrew Lord||Los Angeles Kings||Ontario Reign|
|Jacksonville Icemen||Jacksonville, Florida||VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena||1992*||2012||Nick Luukko||New York Rangers||Hartford Wolf Pack|
|Orlando Solar Bears||Orlando, Florida||Amway Center||2012||Matt Carkner||Tampa Bay Lightning||Syracuse Crunch|
|Savannah Ghost Pirates||Savannah, Georgia||Enmarket Arena||2022||Rick Bennett||Vegas Golden Knights||Henderson Silver Knights|
|South Carolina Stingrays||North Charleston, South Carolina||North Charleston Coliseum||1993||Ryan Blair||Washington Capitals||Hershey Bears|
|Central||Cincinnati Cyclones||Cincinnati, Ohio||Heritage Bank Center||1995*||Jason Payne||Buffalo Sabres||Rochester Americans|
|Fort Wayne Komets||Fort Wayne, Indiana||Allen County War Memorial Coliseum||1985*||2012||Ben Boudreau||Edmonton Oilers||Bakersfield Condors|
|Indy Fuel||Indianapolis, Indiana||Indiana Farmers Coliseum||2014||Duncan Dalmao||Chicago Blackhawks||Rockford IceHogs|
|Iowa Heartlanders||Coralville, Iowa||Xtream Arena||2021||Derek Damon||Minnesota Wild||Iowa Wild|
|Kalamazoo Wings||Kalamazoo, Michigan||Wings Event Center||1999*||2009||Joel Martin||Columbus Blue Jackets||Cleveland Monsters|
|Toledo Walleye||Toledo, Ohio||Huntington Center||1991||Dan Watson||Detroit Red Wings||Grand Rapids Griffins|
|Wheeling Nailers||Wheeling, West Virginia||WesBanco Arena||1981*||1988||Derek Army||Pittsburgh Penguins||Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins|
|Mountain||Allen Americans||Allen, Texas||Credit Union of Texas Event Center||2009||2014||Chad Costello||Ottawa Senators||Belleville Senators|
|Idaho Steelheads||Boise, Idaho||Idaho Central Arena||1997||2003||Everett Sheen||Dallas Stars||Texas Stars|
|Kansas City Mavericks||Independence, Missouri||Cable Dahmer Arena||2009||2014||Tad O'Had||Seattle Kraken||Coachella Valley Firebirds|
|Rapid City Rush||Rapid City, South Dakota||The Monument||2008||2014||Scott Burt||Calgary Flames||Calgary Wranglers|
|Tulsa Oilers||Tulsa, Oklahoma||BOK Center||1992||2014||Rob Murray||Anaheim Ducks||San Diego Gulls|
|Utah Grizzlies||West Valley City, Utah||Maverik Center||1981*||1988||Ryan Kinasewich||Colorado Avalanche||Colorado Eagles|
|Wichita Thunder||Wichita, Kansas||Intrust Bank Arena||1992||2014||Bruce Ramsay||San Jose Sharks||San Jose Barracuda|
|Team||City||Arena||Founded||Joining||Head coach||NHL affiliate||AHL affiliate|
|Athens ECHL Team||Athens, Georgia||Classic Center Arena||2022||2024||TBD||TBD||TBD|
Representatives from all potential expansion franchises, markets that have been granted expansion franchises and franchises that have suspended operations must attend the league's annual Board of Governors Meeting between seasons and provide progress reports on their situations in order to keep their ECHL franchise rights. For dormant and existing franchises, the Board of Governors votes whether or not to extend a franchise's league license until the next Board of Governors Meeting.
At the 2012 Board of Governors Meeting, the Board elected to limit the league to 26 teams, with an emphasis on adding teams to the Western Conference.However, it was decided at the 2015 Board of Governors meeting that the cap should be expanded to 30 teams, hoping to eventually match the NHL and AHL's (then) 30-team totals.
Since starting with five franchises in its inaugural season, the ECHL has had dozens of franchises join and leave the league. Typically, these teams fold or relocate due to operation issues or financial losses. The Johnstown Chiefs became the last remaining founding franchise of the East Coast Hockey League to remain in its original city until it relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, following the completion of the 2009–10 season.
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 2007–08 season, while the Toledo Walleye resumed play in their new arena for the 2009–10 season.
Seven former ECHL franchises have been directly replaced in their respective markets by American Hockey League franchises. The Greensboro Monarchs were the first, being replaced by the Carolina Monarchs in 1995. The Hampton Roads Admirals were the second, giving way to the Norfolk Admirals in 2000. The Peoria Rivermen were the third. In their case, the replacement franchise retained the Worcester IceCats history but assumed the Rivermen identity for their first AHL season of 2005–06. The Charlotte Checkers were the fourth, yielding to a franchise that retained the Albany River Rats history following the club's move to Charlotte following the 2009–10 season and assumed the Checkers identity.In each of these cases, the ECHL franchise was relinquished to the league by its respective ownership group. In 2015, the three California franchises (Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, and Stockton Thunder) were displaced by the formation of an AHL Pacific Division. Each ECHL franchise involved in the territorial shift was either owned or purchased by their NHL affiliate prior to being relocated.
For the 2012–13 season, eight teams still qualify in the Eastern Conference: the three division winners plus the next five teams in the conference. With the addition of the expansion franchise in San Francisco, the Board of Governors changed the Western Conference seeding such that eight teams qualify: two division winners and the next six teams in the conference. This eliminated the Western Conference first-round bye.
Similar to the NHL at the time, the division winners were seeded as the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference and the top two seeds in the Western Conference; the conference winner faced the eighth seed, second faces seventh, third faces sixth and fourth faces fifth in the conference quarterfinal round. The winner of the 1st/8th series played the winner of the 4th/5th series while the 2nd/7th winner played against the 3rd/6th winner in the conference semifinal series. The Board of Governors also elected to change the playoff format such that all rounds of the playoffs are now best of seven series.For 2012–13, the Conference Finals and Kelly Cup Finals will use a two-referee system.
Because of the late addition of the CHL teams for the 2014–15 season and its subsequent conference alignment, the top four teams in each division qualified for the playoffs and the first two playoff rounds were played within the divisions.
For the realignment prior to the 2015–16 season, the playoffs changed once again to a six-division format. At the end of the regular season, the top team in each division qualified for the playoffs and be seeded either 1, 2, or 3 based on the highest point total earned in the season. Then the five non-division winning teams with the highest point totals in each conference qualified for the playoffs and be seeded 4 through 8. All four rounds will be a best-of-seven format.
The alignment changed back to four divisions for the 2016–17 season, but the playoffs kept the divisional format. The top four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs and play in the division for the first two rounds. After the division finals, the winners then play the conference finals and followed by the Kelly Cup finals.
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.
The American Hockey League (AHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in the United States and Canada that serves as the primary developmental league for the National Hockey League (NHL). Since the 2010–11 season, every team in the league has an affiliation agreement with one NHL team. When NHL teams do not have an AHL affiliate, players are assigned to AHL teams affiliated with other NHL teams. Twenty-six AHL teams are located in the United States and the remaining six are in Canada. The league offices are located in Springfield, Massachusetts, and its current president is Scott Howson.
The International Hockey League (IHL) was a minor professional ice hockey league in the United States and Canada that operated from 1945 to 2001. The IHL served as the National Hockey League's alternate farm system to the American Hockey League (AHL). After 56 years of operation, financial instability led to the league's demise. Six of the surviving seven teams merged into the AHL in 2001.
The Idaho Steelheads are an American professional minor league ice hockey team based in Boise, Idaho, and a member of the ECHL. The Steelheads play in the Mountain Division of the ECHL's Western Conference since the 2016–17 season. In 1996, the Steelheads were announced as a 1997–98 expansion team by Diamond Sports Management, headed by Cord Pereira, as a member of the West Coast Hockey League (WCHL). The Steelheads and the rest of the WCHL joined the ECHL in 2003. As of 2021, the Steelheads are the westernmost ECHL team. During the 2003–04 season and since the 2005–06 season the Steelheads have been an affiliate of the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars. The Austin-based Texas Stars have been the Dallas Stars AHL affiliate since the 2009–10 season. Home games are played at the 5,002-seat Idaho Central Arena in downtown Boise.
The Colorado Eagles are a professional minor league ice hockey team based in Loveland, Colorado. The Eagles play in the Pacific Division of the American Hockey League.
The Stockton Thunder were a minor league professional ice hockey team that was based in Stockton, California, and a member of the ECHL. The Stockton Arena was their home ice, with a capacity of 9,737. The team was an affiliate team of the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League in their final two seasons. The team was purchased by the Calgary Flames and relocated to Glens Falls, New York, as the Flames relocated their American Hockey League team to Stockton to become the Stockton Heat.
The 2008–09 ECHL season was the 21st of the ECHL.
The 2009–10 ECHL season was the 22nd season of the ECHL. It ran from October, 2009 until April, 2010, followed by the Kelly Cup playoffs which lasted until May 21, 2010 as the Cincinnati Cyclones won their second Kelly Cup championship in three years by defeating the Idaho Steelheads in five games. The league welcomed two franchises to the league for the 2009–10 season with the return of the Toledo Storm as the Toledo Walleye, who will play in the Lucas County Arena in Toledo, Ohio, after a two-year suspension of the franchise to allow for the construction of their new arena, and the admission of the Kalamazoo Wings as an expansion franchise who will play in Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The ECHL held its annual All-Star Game and Skills Challenge on January 19–20 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, home of the Ontario Reign.
The Allen Americans are a professional ice hockey team headquartered at the Credit Union of Texas Event Center in Allen, Texas, which currently plays in the ECHL. The team was founded in 2009 in the Central Hockey League (CHL) where they played for five seasons, winning the Ray Miron President's Cup twice. The CHL folded in 2014 and the ECHL accepted the remaining CHL teams as members for the 2014–15 season. In their first two seasons in the ECHL, Allen advanced to the Kelly Cup finals, winning the championship in both years. The team is led by President Jonny Mydra and head coach/general manager Chad Costello. Currently, the Americans are affiliated with the National Hockey League's Ottawa Senators and the American Hockey League's Belleville Senators.
The 2010–11 ECHL season was the 23rd season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 15, 2010, to April 2, 2011. The Kelly Cup playoffs followed the regular season, with the first playoff game held on April 4, 2011, and the final game held on May 21, 2011. The league welcomed one new franchise, a relocation of the Johnstown Chiefs to Greenville, South Carolina, who played in the BI-LO Center. The ECHL held its annual All-Star Game and Skills Challenge on January 26 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, California, home of the Bakersfield Condors.
The Chicago Express were a professional ice hockey team located in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, serving the Chicago market. The Express were a member of the North Division of the ECHL's Eastern Conference. The team played its home games at the Sears Centre.
The 2011–12 ECHL season was the 24th season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 4, 2011 to March 31, 2012 and was followed by the 2012 Kelly Cup playoffs beginning on April 2, 2012.
The 2012–13 ECHL season was the 25th season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 12, 2012 to March 30, 2013, with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. The All-Star Game, not held in 2011-12, was brought back and held on January 23, 2013 at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado, home of the Colorado Eagles.
The 2015–16 AHL season was the 80th season of the American Hockey League. The regular season began on October 9, 2015, and ended on April 17, 2016. The 2016 Calder Cup playoffs follow the conclusion of the regular season. An attendance record was set with a league average of 5,982 spectators per game, surpassing the record set in 2004–05.
The Norfolk Admirals are a professional ice hockey team in the ECHL that began play in the 2015–16 season. Based in Norfolk, Virginia, the team plays its home games at the Norfolk Scope. The Admirals replaced the American Hockey League team of the same name, which played from 2000 until 2015, after which they moved to San Diego, California, and became the current incarnation of the San Diego Gulls.
The 2015–16 ECHL season was the 28th season of the ECHL. The regular season schedule ran from October 16, 2015 to April 9, 2016 with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. Twenty-eight teams in 21 states and one Canadian province each played a 72-game schedule. The league alignment was significantly altered before the season when the American Hockey League announced the formation of a Pacific Division on January 30, 2015 displacing the ECHL teams that had been in California markets.
The 2017–18 ECHL season is the 30th season of the ECHL. The regular season ran from October 13, 2017 to April 8, 2018, with the 2018 Kelly Cup playoffs following. Twenty-seven teams in 21 states and one Canadian province each played a 72-game schedule.
The 2017–18 AHL season was the 82nd season of the American Hockey League. The regular season ran from October 6, 2017, to April 15, 2018. The 2018 Calder Cup playoffs followed the conclusion of the regular season. The Toronto Marlies won their first Calder Cup in seven games over the Texas Stars.
The 2018–19 AHL season was the 83rd season of the American Hockey League. The regular season began October 5, 2018 and ended April 15, 2019. The 2019 Calder Cup playoffs followed the conclusion of the regular season.
The 2018–19 ECHL season was the 31st season of the ECHL. The regular season was scheduled to run from October 12, 2018, to April 7, 2019, with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. Twenty-seven teams in 20 states and two Canadian provinces each play a 72-game schedule. The Kelly Cup was won by the Newfoundland Growlers in their inaugural season over the Toledo Walleye.
The 2019–20 ECHL season was the 32nd season of the ECHL. The regular season began in October 2019 to and was set to conclude in April 2020 with the Kelly Cup playoffs to follow. Twenty-six teams in 19 states and two Canadian provinces were each scheduled for 72 games.