The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. The league was established in 1988 with five teams from the All-American Hockey League and the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. Over the years, the ECHL has grown to include teams from across the United States and Canada.
As a mid-level professional ice hockey league, the ECHL is considered a tier below the American Hockey League (AHL). The league serves as a developmental platform for players who aspire to play in the NHL, with many NHL players having started their careers in the ECHL. The ECHL has also been represented on the Stanley Cup champion for 23 consecutive years, demonstrating its importance in the world of hockey.
History of ECHL
The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) was formed in 1988-89 with five teams in four states. The original teams were the Carolina Thunderbirds, Erie Panthers, Johnstown Chiefs, Knoxville Cherokees, and Virginia Lancers. The league started as a developmental league for young hockey players, but it has since grown into a thriving professional league with teams across North America.
In 2003, the league absorbed teams from the former West Coast Hockey League and renamed itself the ECHL, removing any reference to “East Coast” from its name. The league continued to expand, adding new teams and markets across the continent.
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.
Today, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams in 20 states and two Canadian provinces for its 34th season in 2021-22. More than 700 players have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL.
Teams and Locations
The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) is a professional ice hockey league with teams in the United States and Canada. In the United States, the ECHL has teams in various states such as Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and California. In Canada, the ECHL has teams in British Columbia and Ontario.
United States Teams
The ECHL has several teams in the United States, including the Wheeling Nailers, Kalamazoo Wings, Orlando Solar Bears, and Fort Wayne Komets. Other teams include the Toledo Walleye, Cincinnati Cyclones, and Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
The ECHL also has teams in North Carolina, such as the Carolina Thunderbirds, Greensboro Monarchs, and Winston-Salem Thunderbirds. Additionally, the league has teams in Alaska, Idaho, and Utah, such as the Alaska Aces, Idaho Steelheads, and Utah Grizzlies.
The ECHL has two teams in Canada: the Brampton Beast and the Newfoundland Growlers. The Brampton Beast is located in Brampton, Ontario, while the Newfoundland Growlers are located in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Overall, the ECHL has a diverse range of teams in both the United States and Canada, giving fans a chance to see a variety of teams and players from different regions.
The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) is a mid-level professional ice hockey league that operates in the United States and Canada. The league is divided into two conferences, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference, each of which is further divided into two divisions.
Conferences and Divisions
The Eastern Conference comprises the North Division and the South Division, while the Western Conference comprises the Mountain Division and the Pacific Division. Each division has between five and eight teams.
During the regular season, teams play 72 games, with 36 games at home and 36 on the road. Each team plays against teams in their own division multiple times, as well as against teams from the other division in their conference and a few teams from the other conference.
Playoffs and Championships
The top four teams from each division qualify for the playoffs at the end of the regular season. The playoffs consist of four rounds of best-of-seven series, with the winner of each series advancing to the next round. The winner of the Kelly Cup Finals is crowned the ECHL champion.
The Kelly Cup is named after Patrick J. Kelly, who was one of the founding fathers of the ECHL. The trophy was first awarded in 1997 and has since become one of the most coveted prizes in minor league hockey.
Affiliations and Agreements
The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) has affiliations and agreements with various entities, including the National Hockey League (NHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL). As of the 2022-23 season, 28 of the 32 NHL teams have official affiliations with an ECHL team. The Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets are the only NHL teams without an official ECHL affiliation.
The ECHL and the AHL have a working agreement allowing players to move between the two leagues. The AHL is considered the primary development league for the NHL, while the ECHL is considered a secondary development league. The ECHL and AHL have a limit on the number of veteran players allowed on each team, which is defined as a player who has played in 260 or more professional games.
The ECHL is a member of the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA), which is the labor union for professional hockey players in North America. The PHPA negotiates a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the ECHL on behalf of its members. The CBA defines the terms and conditions of employment for ECHL players, including salary, benefits, and working conditions.
In addition to NHL and AHL affiliations, the ECHL has affiliations with teams in other minor leagues, such as the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) and the Federal Prospects Hockey League (FPHL). The ECHL also has agreements with European leagues, allowing for the transfer of players between leagues.
Key Figures in ECHL
Coaches play a crucial role in the success of any ice hockey team, and the ECHL is no exception. The league has seen many talented coaches over the years, including some who have gone on to coach in the NHL. One of the most successful coaches in ECHL history is John Marks, who won three championships with the Toledo Storm. Other notable coaches include:
- Jeff Pyle, who has won two championships with the Gwinnett Gladiators
- Kevin Kaminski, who won a championship with the Alaska Aces
- Brad Ralph, who won a championship with the Florida Everblades
General Managers are responsible for building and managing their team’s roster, and they play a key role in the success of any ECHL team. Many of the league’s general managers have gone on to work in the NHL, including:
- Brian Burke, who served as the general manager of the Orlando Solar Bears
- David Poile, who served as the general manager of the Cincinnati Cyclones
- Chuck Fletcher, who served as the general manager of the Florida Everblades
The ECHL is known for developing young talent, and many players have gone on to have successful careers in the NHL. Some of the league’s most successful players include:
- Rod Aldoff, who won two championships with the Hampton Roads Admirals and went on to play in the NHL
- Kevin Colley, who won a championship with the Idaho Steelheads and went on to play in the NHL
- Nick Vitucci, who won two championships with the Toledo Storm and went on to coach in the ECHL
Rookies are also an important part of the league, as they provide fresh talent and energy to their teams. Some of the most successful rookies in ECHL history include:
- Chris Valicevic, who won Rookie of the Year in 1992 and went on to play in the NHL
- Greg Hogeboom, who won Rookie of the Year in 2006 and went on to play in Europe
- Justin Donati, who won Rookie of the Year in 2008 and went on to play in Europe
The Commissioner of the ECHL oversees the league’s operations and plays a key role in ensuring that the league runs smoothly. The current commissioner of the ECHL is Ryan Crelin, who has held the position since 2018. Crelin has worked in various roles in the ECHL since 2002 and has been instrumental in the league’s growth and success.
The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. The league was founded in 1988 with five teams from the All-American Hockey League and the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. The ECHL has 26 teams today, with 25 in the United States and 1 in Canada.
The ECHL is considered a mid-level professional league, with teams one tier below the American Hockey League (AHL).
The league serves as a developmental league for the AHL and the National Hockey League (NHL). Many players who have played in the ECHL have gone on to play in the NHL, including goaltender Pekka Rinne and forward Scott Darling.
The ECHL has a website where fans can find information on teams, schedules, standings, and statistics. The league also holds an annual draft, where teams can select players who have not yet signed with a team. In addition, the ECHL uses a shootout to determine the winner of games that are tied after regulation and overtime.
One interesting fact about the ECHL is that it was previously known as the East Coast Hockey League until 2003, when it changed its name to ECHL to reflect its nationwide presence. Another interesting fact is that the first ECHL game was played on October 7, 1988, between the Carolina Thunderbirds and the Erie Panthers. The Thunderbirds won the game 5-3.
If you are a fan of ice hockey in North America, the ECHL is a league that you should definitely check out. With teams located throughout the United States and Canada, there is sure to be a team near you. Whether you are interested in watching future NHL stars develop their skills, or just looking for some exciting hockey action, the ECHL has something for everyone.