|2014-15 ECHL season|
|No. of teams||28|
|Country(ies)|| United States (27 teams)|
Canada (1 team)
|Most recent champion(s)||Allen Americans|
|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, 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, 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)Edit
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 DivisionEdit
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.
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.
2015-16 League alignmentEdit
|Team||City/Area||Arena||Founded||Joining||Head Coach||NHL Affiliate(s)||AHL Affiliate(s)|
|Worcester Railers HC||Worcester, MA||DCU Center||2016||2017||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Owensboro ECHL team (former Evansville IceMen)||Owensboro, Kentucky||Owensboro Sports Center||1992*||2017 or 2018||TBD||TBD||TBD|
- An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.
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.
Future teams Edit
- 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 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".
- 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. The effort to relaunch the Wranglers came to an end on January 30, 2015 as the team was still searching for a new home and the NHL having an interest in relocating or expanding to Las Vegas caused the ownership to fold and withdraw from the ECHL.
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.
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 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 (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.
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