ECHL

Last updated
ECHL
Current season, competition or edition:
Hockey current event.svg 2023–24 ECHL season
ECHL logo.svg
Sport Ice hockey
Founded1988
No. of teams28
Country
  • United States (26 teams)
  • Canada (2 teams)
Headquarters Shrewsbury, New Jersey, U.S.
Most recent
champion(s)
Florida Everblades (3rd title)
Most titles Alaska Aces
Florida Everblades
Hampton Roads Admirals
South Carolina Stingrays (3 each)
TV partner(s)Canada (English): Sportsnet/Sportsnet One
Canada (French): TVA Sports
United States: NHL Network
Streaming: FloSports
Official website www.echl.com

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).

Contents

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. [1] Additionally, the league's players are represented by the Professional Hockey Players' Association in negotiations with the ECHL itself. At least 739 players have played at least one game in the NHL after appearing in the ECHL. [2]

For the 2023–24 season, 28 of the 32 NHL teams have affiliations with an ECHL team [3] with only the Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues having no official ECHL affiliations. NHL teams 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 2023.

History

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 200405 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. [4]

ECHL action, October 2012 in Toledo, Ohio, between the Kalamazoo Wings and the Toledo Walleye Faceoff Oct 2012 Kalamazoo at Toledo.jpg
ECHL action, October 2012 in Toledo, Ohio, between the Kalamazoo Wings and the Toledo Walleye

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. [5]

The league lost its only Canadian team with the folding of the Victoria Salmon Kings subsequent to the 2010–11 season, [6] but increased to 20 teams for the 2011–12 season with the addition of the expansion franchise Chicago Express [7] and the Colorado Eagles who previously played in the Central Hockey League. [8]

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 201314 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. [9]

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. [10] 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.

There were two expansion teams added in 2021–22, the Iowa Heartlanders and the Trois-Rivières Lions, with Iowa going into the Central Division and Trois-Rivières going into the North. This brought the league up to 27 teams. [11] The league added the Savannah Ghost Pirates, bringing the league to 28 teams, and balancing the divisions for the 2022–23 season. [12] [13]

There are two expansion teams to be added for the 2024-2025 season; the Tahoe Knight Monsters in Stateline, NV and the Bloomington Bison in Bloomington, IL. [14] [15] The Knight Monsters are expected to play in the Mountain division, with the Bloomington team likely to compete in the Central division. This will bring the ECHL to 30 teams, with plans to expand to 32 in the future per ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin. [16] [17]

Teams

Usa edcp location map.svg
Yellow pog.svg
Tahoe (2024–25)
Yellow pog.svg
Bloomington (2024–25)
US-based teams in the ECHL as of the 2023–24 season. Dot colors correspond to the divisional alignment.
  • Blue pog.svg North Division
  • Red pog.svg South Division
  • Orange pog.svg Central Division
  • Pink pog.svg Mountain Division
  • Yellow pog.svg Future team
Canadian-based teams in the ECHL as of the 2023–24 season. Dot colors correspond to the divisional alignment.

2023–24 teams

Alignment, affiliations, and locations for the 2023–24 season. [18]

Overview of ECHL teams
ConferenceDivisionTeamCityArenaFoundedJoinedHead coachNHL affiliateAHL affiliate
EasternNorth 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*2003Terrence Wallin Boston Bruins Providence Bruins
Newfoundland Growlers St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador Mary Brown's Centre 2018 Matt Cooke Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Marlies
Norfolk Admirals Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk Scope 1995*2003Jeff Carr Winnipeg Jets [19] (official)
Carolina Hurricanes [20] (working agreement)
Manitoba Moose
Reading Royals Reading, Pennsylvania Santander Arena 1991* James Henry Philadelphia Flyers Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Trois-Rivières Lions Trois-Rivières, Quebec Colisée Vidéotron 2021Ron Choules Montreal Canadiens [21] Laval Rocket
Worcester Railers Worcester, Massachusetts DCU Center 2017 Jordan Smotherman New York Islanders Bridgeport Islanders
South Atlanta Gladiators Duluth, Georgia Gas South Arena 1995* Jeff Pyle Nashville Predators Milwaukee Admirals
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*2012Nick Luukko Buffalo Sabres [22] Rochester Americans [22]
Orlando Solar Bears Orlando, Florida Kia 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 1993Ryan Blair Washington Capitals Hershey Bears
WesternCentral Cincinnati Cyclones Cincinnati, Ohio Heritage Bank Center 1995*Jason Payne New York Rangers Hartford Wolfpack
Fort Wayne Komets Fort Wayne, Indiana Allen County War Memorial Coliseum 1985*2012Jesse Kallechy Edmonton Oilers Bakersfield Condors
Indy Fuel Indianapolis, Indiana Indiana Farmers Coliseum 2014 Duncan Dalmao Chicago Blackhawks Rockford IceHogs
Iowa Heartlanders Coralville, Iowa Xtream Arena 2021Derek Damon Minnesota Wild Iowa Wild
Kalamazoo Wings Kalamazoo, Michigan Wings Event Center 1999*2009Joel Martin Vancouver Canucks Abbotsford Canucks
Toledo Walleye Toledo, Ohio Huntington Center 1991Dan Watson Detroit Red Wings Grand Rapids Griffins
Wheeling Nailers Wheeling, West Virginia WesBanco Arena 1981*1988Derek Army Pittsburgh Penguins Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Mountain Allen Americans Allen, Texas Credit Union of Texas Event Center 20092014Chad Costello Ottawa Senators Belleville Senators
Idaho Steelheads Boise, Idaho Idaho Central Arena 19972003Everett Sheen Dallas Stars Texas Stars
Kansas City Mavericks Independence, Missouri Cable Dahmer Arena 20092014Tad O'Had Seattle Kraken Coachella Valley Firebirds
Rapid City Rush Rapid City, South Dakota The Monument 20082014Scott Burt Calgary Flames Calgary Wranglers
Tulsa Oilers Tulsa, Oklahoma BOK Center 19922014 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 19922014Bruce Ramsay San Jose Sharks San Jose Barracuda
Notes
  1. An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.

Future teams

Planned ECHL teams
TeamCityArenaFoundedJoiningHead coachNHL affiliateAHL affiliate
Tahoe Knight Monsters Stateline, Nevada Tahoe Blue Event Center 2024TBDTBDTBD
Bloomington Bison Bloomington, Illinois Grossinger Motors Arena 2024TBDTBDTBD

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. [23] 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. [10] In 2023, ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin commented that the eventual goal was to match the AHL and NHL expansion to 32 teams. [24]

Defunct and relocated teams

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. [25]

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. [26] 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. [10]

Timeline

Bloomington BisonTahoe Knight MonstersSavannah Ghost PiratesTrois-Rivières Lions (ECHL)Iowa HeartlandersNewfoundland GrowlersWorcester RailersWichita ThunderTulsa OilersRapid City RushQuad City MallardsKansas City MavericksIndy FuelBrampton BeastAllen AmericansSan Francisco BullsOrlando Solar BearsFort Wayne KometsJacksonville IcemenEvansville IceMenColorado EaglesChicago ExpressKalamazoo WingsElmira JackalsPhoenix Roadrunners (ECHL)San Diego Gulls (1995–2006)Long Beach Ice DogsLas Vegas WranglersIdaho SteelheadsFresno FalconsNorfolk Admirals (ECHL)Bakersfield Condors (1998–2015)Maine Mariners (ECHL)Alaska Aces (ECHL)Columbia InfernoTrenton TitansGreensboro GeneralsArkansas RiverBladesGreenville GrrrowlFlorida EverbladesNew Orleans BrassJackson BanditsChesapeake IcebreakersPeoria Rivermen (ECHL)Mississippi Sea WolvesAtlanta GladiatorsMobile MysticksCincinnati CyclonesMiami MatadorsLouisville RiverFrogsLouisiana IceGators (ECHL)South Carolina StingraysRoanoke ExpressManchester Monarchs (ECHL)Ontario Reign (ECHL)Texas WildcattersTexas WildcattersCharlotte Checkers (1993–2010)Toledo WalleyeToledo StormAugusta LynxRaleigh IceCapsDayton BombersReading RoyalsColumbus ChillRichmond Renegades (ECHL)Jacksonville Lizard KingsLouisville IceHawksAdirondack ThunderStockton ThunderAtlantic City Boardwalk BulliesBirmingham Bulls (ECHL)Cincinnati CyclonesPensacola Ice PilotsNashville KnightsColumbus CottonmouthsHampton Roads AdmiralsGreensboro MonarchsUtah GrizzliesLexington Men O' WarMacon Whoopee (ECHL)Tallahassee Tiger SharksHuntsville BlastVirginia LancersPee Dee PrideKnoxville CherokeesGreenville Swamp RabbitsJohnstown ChiefsVictoria Salmon KingsBaton Rouge KingfishErie PanthersWheeling NailersCarolina ThunderbirdsECHL

Current memberFormer memberFuture memberSuspended member

Kelly Cup playoff format

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. [28]

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. [28] For 2012–13, the Conference Finals and Kelly Cup Finals will use a two-referee system. [23]

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. [29]

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. [30]

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.

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.

See also

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