|2010–11 ECHL season|
|No. of teams||20|
|Country(ies)|| United States (19 teams)|
Canada (1 team)
|Most recent champion(s)||Cincinnati Cyclones|
|Most championship(s)|| (tie) 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, 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 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, 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.
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. 
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 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. 
Future teams Edit
- The Indianapolis Fuel havebeen added as an expansion team for the 2014-15 season.
- Columbia Inferno, the franchise was granted a one-year voluntary suspension while the team attempted to find a new home arena, then were repeatedly granted a one-year extension onto their voluntary suspension as they attempted to construct a new arena to host the franchise. The franchise apparently stopped paying the franchise fee to keep the team inactive and they have been removed from the leagues website as a future market during the 2014 off-season.
- 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 Las Vegas Wranglers lease was not renewed with the Orleans Arena. The team had tried to arrange for a new venue but were unsuccessful in their efforts. Among their efforts included building a temporary rink in a parking lot and an rink on top of a hotel. The franchise ownership has stating they are hoping to return to the league in a new facility hopefully in Las Vegas.
In an article in the summer of 2009, Commissioner Brian McKenna said "There are some other ones in places like...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."
Defunct and relocated teams Edit
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.
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.
ECHL Hall of Fame Edit
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 Edit
|2008||Henry Brabham||ECHL founder|
|Patrick J. Kelly||Commissioner|
|2009||John Brophy||Head coach|
|Blake Cullen||Owner (Hampton Roads)|
|Rod Taylor||Left winger|
|2010||Cam Brown||Left winger|
|E.A. Bud Gingher||Board of Governors Chairman (1992-95) and Owner (Dayton)|
See also Edit
- ↑ 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}
- ↑ Press release (June 29, 2009). [hhtp://www.echl.com/cgi-bin/mpublic.cgi?action=show_news2&cat=1&id=19090 Annual ECHL Board of Governors Meeting Concludes]. ECHL. Retrieved on june 29, 2009.
- ↑ Press release (February 17, 2010). ECHL Concludes Mid-Season Board of Governors Meeting. ECHL.
- ↑ Carroll, Alex (July 12, 2009). Q&A with ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. Shorthanded Breakaway.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ Scott, David (February 11, 2010). Checkers moving up in world. Charlotte Observer.
|Atlantic||Elmira Jackals · Reading Royals · Trenton Devils|
|North||Cincinnati Cyclones · Kalamazoo Wings · Toledo Walleye · Wheeling Nailers|
|South||Florida Everblades · Greenville Road Warriors · Gwinnett Gladiators · South Carolina Stingrays|
|Pacific||Bakersfield Condors · Las Vegas Wranglers · Ontario Reign · Stockton Thunder|
|Mountain||Alaska Aces · Idaho Steelheads · Utah Grizzlies|
|Begin play in 2011-12||Chicago Express|
|Related articles: List of ECHL seasons · Kelly Cup · Brabham Cup · All-Star Game · Awards · Defunct teams · Hall of Fame · Arenas|
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