Infobox sports league
current_season = 2008-09 ECHL season
pixels = 150px
caption = ECHL logo
founded = 1988
teams = 23
country = USA
website = [http://www.echl.com/ www.echl.com]
The ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) is a
professional ice hockeyleague based in Princeton, New Jersey, with teams scattered across the United Statesand 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 Leagueteams. Hockey generally 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 league, which combined teams from the defunct
Atlantic Coast Hockey Leagueand 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 Carolinain 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 Leagueceased 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 Dogsand the San Diego Gulls as well as from teams in Ontario, Californiaand 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 ten West Coast-based teams in the National Conference, and thirteen 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. [cite web | last = | first = | title = ECHL Toolbar Available Now | publisher = ECHL | date = July 14, 2008 | url = http://www.echl.com/cgi-bin/mpublic.cgi?action=show_news&cat=1&id=15674| accessdatee = July 15, 2008]
One team is scheduled to relocate for the 2009-10 season and two which were previously under suspension will return with new home arenas. [ [http://www.echl.com/fteams.shtml ECHL - Future Teams and Other Markets] ]
Columbia Inferno, 2009-10; granted a one-year voluntary suspension while the team attempts to find a new home arena.
Myrtle Beach ECHL team, 2009-10; previously the Pee Dee Pridefranchise, pending completion of YRT2 Arena(on the campus of Coastal Carolina University) in Conway, South Carolina, between Florence and Myrtle Beach. [cite web | last = | first = | title = ECHL Concludes MidSeason Board Of Governors Meeting | publisher = ECHL | date = February 26, 2008 | url = http://www.echl.com/cgi-bin/mpublic.cgi?action=show_news&cat=1&id=14123| accessdatee = July 15, 2008]
Toledo Walleye, 2009-10; franchise previously known as the Toledo Storm(1991-2007), 2009-10; The Toledo Sports Arenawas demolished, The Walleye will play at the Lucas County Arenawhich is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2009 season. [cite web | last = Vardon | first = Joe | title = Mud Hens snag catchy "Walleye" as moniker for hockey franchise | publisher = Toledo Blade | date = February 20, 2008 | url = http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20080220%2FNEWS16%2F802200393%2F-1%2FARCHIVES30| accessdatee = July 15, 2008]
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 Katrinaand the Storm in order to demolish their present arena and construct a new arena on the site. The new owners of the Toledo franchise, the businessmen who own the area AAA-baseball team the Toledo Mud Hens, 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 [http://www.toledowalleye.com/news/ 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.
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 Gamefestivities at Stockton Arenain Stockton, Californiaand included ECHL founder Henry Brabham, the ECHL's first commissioner Patrick J. Kelly, and former players Nick Vitucciand Chris Valicevic
ECHL All-Star Game
List of ECHL seasons
List of developmental and minor sports leagues
List of ice hockey leagues
Sports league attendances
* [http://www.echl.com ECHL website]
* [http://www.phpa.com PHPA website]
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