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The ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) is a mid-level professional ice hockey league based in Princeton, New Jerseymarker, with teams scattered across the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker, 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.

History

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 Carolinamarker 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 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, Californiamarker and Reno, Nevadamarker. 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.

Teams

National Conference
Division Team Arena City/area NHL affiliate(s) AHL affiliate(s)
Pacific Bakersfield Condors Rabobank Arenamarker Bakersfield, CAmarker Anaheim Ducks
Las Vegas Wranglers Orleans Arenamarker Las Vegas, NVmarker Phoenix Coyotes San Antonio Rampage
Ontario Reign Citizens Business Bank Arenamarker Ontario, CAmarker Los Angeles Kings Manchester Monarchs
Stockton Thunder Stockton Arenamarker Stockton, CAmarker Edmonton Oilers Springfield Falcons
West Alaska Aces Sullivan Arenamarker Anchorage, AKmarker St. Louis Blues Peoria Rivermen
Idaho Steelheads Qwest Arenamarker Boise, IDmarker Dallas Stars Texas Stars
Utah Grizzlies E Centermarker West Valley City, UTmarker New York IslandersCalgary Flames Bridgeport Sound TigersAbbotsford Heat
Victoria Salmon Kings Save-On-Foods Memorial Centremarker Victoria, BCmarker Vancouver Canucks Manitoba Moose
American Conference
Division Team Arena City/area NHL affiliate(s) AHL affiliate(s)
East Elmira Jackals First Arenamarker Elmira, NYmarker Ottawa Senators Binghamton Senators
Johnstown Chiefs Cambria County War Memorial Arenamarker Johnstown, PAmarker Minnesota Wild Houston Aeros
Reading Royals Sovereign Centermarker Reading, PAmarker Toronto Maple Leafs Boston Bruins Toronto Marlies Providence Bruins
Trenton Devils Sun National Bank Centermarker Trenton, NJmarker New Jersey Devils Lowell Devils
North Cincinnati Cyclones US Bank Arenamarker Cincinnati, OHmarker Montreal Canadiens Nashville Predators Hamilton Bulldogs Milwaukee Admirals
Kalamazoo Wings Wings Stadiummarker Kalamazoo, MImarker Philadelphia Flyers San Jose Sharks Adirondack Phantoms Worcester Sharks
Toledo Walleye Lucas County Arena Toledo, OHmarker Detroit Red WingsChicago Blackhawks Grand Rapids GriffinsRockford IceHogs
Wheeling Nailers WesBanco Arenamarker Wheeling, WVmarker Pittsburgh Penguins Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
South Charlotte Checkers Time Warner Cable Arenamarker Charlotte, NCmarker New York Rangers
Colorado Avalanche
Hartford Wolf Pack
Lake Erie Monsters
Florida Everblades Germain Arenamarker Estero, FLmarker Carolina Hurricanes Florida Panthers Albany River Rats Rochester Americans
Gwinnett Gladiators Arena at Gwinnett Centermarker Duluth, GAmarker Atlanta Thrashers
Columbus Blue Jackets
Chicago Wolves
Syracuse Crunch
South Carolina Stingrays North Charleston Coliseummarker North Charleston, SCmarker Washington Capitals Hershey Bears


2010 Kelly Cup playoff format

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

One team is scheduled to relocate for the 2009–10 season and two which were previously under suspension should return with new home arenas for the 2010–11 season.

  • Columbia Inferno, 2010–11; granted a one-year voluntary suspension while the team attempts to find a new home arena, then granted a one-year extension onto their voluntary suspension as they attempt construction start for Irmo arena.


  • Reno, Nevadamarker, start date unknown; no announcement of arena construction has been made.


Defunct and relocated teams

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 stated in recent years they would not grant voluntary suspensions of franchises for more than one year, both the Toledo Storm and Mississippi Sea Wolves have had two-year suspensions -- the Sea Wolves because of Hurricane Katrina and the Storm in order to demolish their present arena and construct a new arena in downtown Toledo. In 2007, the Toledo Storm were bought by Toledo Arena Sports, Inc., a subsidiary of the Toledo Mud Hens minor league baseball club that was planning to build a new state-of-the-art arena in downtown Toledo to replace the aging Sports Arena. Shortly after the sale, Toledo Arena Sports announced that after the 2006-07 season, the Storm would not compete again until the arena was completed and the ECHL granted the Storm a two year voluntary suspension from competition.have stated they will choose a new name for the team. Toledo Arena Sports General Manager Joe Napoli and Toledo Arena Sports President Mike Miller unveiled the new name on February 20, 2008. The Mississippi Sea Wolves resumed play for the 2007–2008 season, while the Toledo Walleye will return to play for the 2009–2010 season.

On March 30, 2009, the Dayton Bombers and Mississippi Sea Wolves will 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.. Both the Dayton and Biloxi markets were replaced by teams in other leagues.



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. 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 Arenamarker in Stockton, Californiamarker 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

Year Name Position/role
2008 Henry Brabham ECHL founder
Patrick J. Kelly Commissioner
Chris Valicevic Defenceman
Nick Vitucci Goaltender
2009 John Brophy Head coach
Blake Cullen Owner
Tom Nemeth Defenceman
Rod Taylor Left winger


See also



References

  1. ECHL - Future Teams and Other Markets


External links




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