Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2023–24 ECHL season
SportIce hockey
No. of teams27
  • United States (26 teams)
  • Canada (1 team)
HeadquartersShrewsbury, New Jersey, U.S.
Most recent
Florida Everblades (3rd title)
Most titlesAlaska Aces
Florida Everblades
Hampton Roads Admirals
South Carolina Stingrays (3 each)
TV partner(s)Canada (English): Sportsnet/Sportsnet One
Canada (French): TVA Sports
United States: NHL Network
Streaming: FloSports

The ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) is a professional ice hockey minor league based in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, with teams across the United States and Canada. Competitively, it is a tier below the American Hockey League (AHL).

The ECHL and the AHL are the only minor leagues recognized by the collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey League (NHL) 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 in either the ECHL or the AHL.[1] Additionally, the league's players are represented by the Professional Hockey Players' Association in negotiations with the ECHL itself. At least 739 players have played at least one game in the NHL after appearing in the ECHL.[2]

For the beginning of the 2023–24 season, 28 of the 32 NHL teams held affiliations with an ECHL team[3] with only the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, and Arizona Coyotes having no such franchise affiliations. Subsequently, the Toronto Maple Leafs would lose their ECHL affiliate, the Newfoundland Growlers, on April 2, 2024, raising the total number of teams without official ECHL affiliations to five.[4] Several days later, the Coyotes became a deactivated franchise and the Utah NHL team was announced, which also lacks an ECHL affiliate. NHL teams sometimes lend contracted players to ECHL teams with whom they have no affiliation agreements for development and increased playing time.

The league's regular season typically begins in October and ends in April, followed by the Kelly Cup playoffs. The most recent playoff champions are the Florida Everblades in 2023.


The league, which combined teams from the defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL) and All-American Hockey League (AAHL), began to play as the East Coast Hockey League in 1988 with five teams – the (Winston-Salem, North) Carolina Thunderbirds (now the Wheeling Nailers); the Erie Panthers (folded in 2011 as the Victoria Salmon Kings); the Johnstown Chiefs (now the Greenville Swamp Rabbits); the Knoxville Cherokees (ceased operations as the Pee Dee Pride in 2005; folded in 2009 following failed relocation efforts); and the Virginia Lancers (now the Utah Grizzlies).

In 2003, the West Coast Hockey League ceased operations, and the ECHL board of governors approved membership applications from the Anchorage/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 potential 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. In a change reflective of the league's now-nationwide presence, the East Coast Hockey League shortened its name to the orphan initialism ECHL on May 19, 2003. The ECHL reached its largest size to date (31 teams) that season before being reduced to 28 teams for the 2004–05 season.

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 (a subsidiary of America One Broadcasting). In 2008, the league introduced the ECHL toolbar for internet browsers which gave users short cut access to statistics, scores, transactions, and news updates.[5]

ECHL action, October 2012 in Toledo, Ohio, between the Kalamazoo Wings and the Toledo Walleye

At the annual ECHL Board of Governors meeting on June 15, 2010, in Henderson, Nevada, the Board of Governors approved changes to the names of the conferences and divisions. The former American Conference (comprising eleven East Coast and Midwest teams) was renamed the Eastern Conference, while the National Conference (consisting of 8 West Coast teams, including the league's only Canadian team at the time) was re-designated the Western Conference. Within the Eastern Conference, the East Division was renamed the Atlantic Division, and the Western Conference's former West Division was dubbed the Mountain Division.[6]

The league lost its only Canadian team with the folding of the Victoria Salmon Kings subsequent to the 2010–11 season,[7] but increased to 20 teams for the 2011–12 season with the addition of the expansion franchise Chicago Express[8] and the Colorado Eagles who previously played in the Central Hockey League.[9]

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. That number dropped to 22 for the 2013–14 season with the folding of the Trenton Titans and subsequently fell to 21 with the mid-season folding of the San Francisco Bulls on January 27, 2014.

On October 7, 2014, the ECHL announced that the seven remaining active members of the Central Hockey League (the Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Quad City Mallards, Missouri Mavericks, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder) would be admitted as new members for the 2014–15 season. The addition of the former CHL teams plus the expansion Indy Fuel raised the number of teams to 28 and placed a team in Canada for the first time since 2011.[10]

Before the 2015–16 season, the AHL's creation of a Pacific Division led the three California ECHL teams to relocate to former AHL cities with the Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, and Stockton Thunder relocating to become the Norfolk Admirals, Manchester Monarchs, and Adirondack Thunder, respectively.[11] By the 2018–19 season, the ECHL had also expanded into other markets recently vacated by the AHL in the Maine Mariners, Newfoundland Growlers, and Worcester Railers.

There were two expansion teams added in 2021–22, the Iowa Heartlanders and the Trois-Rivières Lions, with Iowa going into the Central Division and Trois-Rivières going into the North. This brought the league up to 27 teams.[12] The league added the Savannah Ghost Pirates, bringing the league to 28 teams, and balancing the divisions for the 2022–23 season.[13][14]

There are two expansion teams to be added for the 2024-2025 season; the Tahoe Knight Monsters in Stateline, NV and the Bloomington Bison in Bloomington, IL.[15][16] The Knight Monsters are expected to play in the Mountain division, with the Bloomington team likely to compete in the Central division. This was intended to bring the ECHL to 30 teams prior to the Newfoundland Growlers folding, with plans to expand to 32 in the future per ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin.[17][18]

On April 2, 2024, the league announced that the Newfoundland Growlers' membership had been terminated due to failure to fulfill its obligations under league bylaws, bringing the league down to 27 teams.[19]


ECHL 2023–24.
Tahoe (2024–25)
Tahoe (2024–25)
Bloomington (2024–25)
Bloomington (2024–25)
Teams in the ECHL as of the 2023–24 season. Dot colors correspond to the divisional alignment.
  • North Division
  • South Division
  • Central Division
  • Mountain Division
  • Future team

2023–24 teams

Alignment, affiliations, and locations for the 2023–24 season.[20]

Overview of ECHL teams
Conference Division Team City Arena Founded Joined Head coach NHL affiliate AHL affiliate
Eastern North Adirondack Thunder Glens Falls, New York Cool Insuring Arena 1990* Pete MacArthur New Jersey Devils Utica Comets
Maine Mariners Portland, Maine Cross Insurance Arena 1989* 2003 Terrence Wallin Boston Bruins Providence Bruins
Newfoundland Growlers St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador Mary Brown's Centre 2018 Matt Cooke Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto Marlies
Norfolk Admirals Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk Scope 1995* 2003 Jeff Carr Winnipeg Jets[21] (official)
Carolina Hurricanes[22] (working agreement)
Manitoba Moose
Reading Royals Reading, Pennsylvania Santander Arena 1991* James Henry Philadelphia Flyers Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Trois-Rivières Lions Trois-Rivières, Quebec Colisée Vidéotron 2021 Ron Choules Montreal Canadiens[23] Laval Rocket
Worcester Railers Worcester, Massachusetts DCU Center 2017 Jordan Smotherman New York Islanders Bridgeport Islanders
South Atlanta Gladiators Duluth, Georgia Gas South Arena 1995* Jeff Pyle Nashville Predators Milwaukee Admirals
Florida Everblades Estero, Florida Hertz Arena 1998 Brad Ralph Florida Panthers Charlotte Checkers
Greenville Swamp Rabbits Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena 1987* 1988 Andrew Lord Los Angeles Kings Ontario Reign
Jacksonville Icemen Jacksonville, Florida VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena 1992* 2012 Nick Luukko Buffalo Sabres[24] Rochester Americans[24]
Orlando Solar Bears Orlando, Florida Kia Center 2012 Matt Carkner Tampa Bay Lightning Syracuse Crunch
Savannah Ghost Pirates Savannah, Georgia Enmarket Arena 2022 Rick Bennett Vegas Golden Knights Henderson Silver Knights
South Carolina Stingrays North Charleston, South Carolina North Charleston Coliseum 1993 Ryan Blair Washington Capitals Hershey Bears
Western Central Cincinnati Cyclones Cincinnati, Ohio Heritage Bank Center 1995* Jason Payne New York Rangers Hartford Wolf Pack
Fort Wayne Komets Fort Wayne, Indiana Allen County War Memorial Coliseum 1985* 2012 Jesse Kallechy Edmonton Oilers Bakersfield Condors
Indy Fuel Indianapolis, Indiana Indiana Farmers Coliseum 2014 Duncan Dalmao Chicago Blackhawks Rockford IceHogs
Iowa Heartlanders Coralville, Iowa Xtream Arena 2021 Derek Damon Minnesota Wild Iowa Wild
Kalamazoo Wings Kalamazoo, Michigan Wings Event Center 1999* 2009 Joel Martin Vancouver Canucks Abbotsford Canucks
Toledo Walleye Toledo, Ohio Huntington Center 1991 Dan Watson Detroit Red Wings Grand Rapids Griffins
Wheeling Nailers Wheeling, West Virginia WesBanco Arena 1981* 1988 Derek Army Pittsburgh Penguins Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Mountain Allen Americans Allen, Texas Credit Union of Texas Event Center 2009 2014 Chad Costello Ottawa Senators Belleville Senators
Idaho Steelheads Boise, Idaho Idaho Central Arena 1997 2003 Everett Sheen Dallas Stars Texas Stars
Kansas City Mavericks Independence, Missouri Cable Dahmer Arena 2009 2014 Tad O'Had Seattle Kraken Coachella Valley Firebirds
Rapid City Rush Rapid City, South Dakota The Monument 2008 2014 Scott Burt Calgary Flames Calgary Wranglers
Tulsa Oilers Tulsa, Oklahoma BOK Center 1992 2014 Rob Murray Anaheim Ducks San Diego Gulls
Utah Grizzlies West Valley City, Utah Maverik Center 1981* 1988 Ryan Kinasewich Colorado Avalanche Colorado Eagles
Wichita Thunder Wichita, Kansas Intrust Bank Arena 1992 2014 Bruce Ramsay San Jose Sharks San Jose Barracuda


  1. An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.
  2. † denotes a franchise that ceased operations before the end of the season.

Future teams

Planned ECHL teams
Team City Arena Founded Joining Head coach NHL affiliate AHL affiliate
Tahoe Knight Monsters Stateline, Nevada Tahoe Blue Event Center 2024 TBD TBD TBD
Bloomington Bison Bloomington, Illinois Grossinger Motors Arena 2024 TBD TBD TBD

Representatives from all potential expansion franchises, markets that have been granted expansion franchises and franchises that have suspended operations must attend the league's annual Board of Governors Meeting between seasons and provide progress reports on their situations in order to keep their ECHL franchise rights. For dormant and existing franchises, the Board of Governors votes whether or not to extend a franchise's league license until the next Board of Governors Meeting.

At the 2012 Board of Governors meeting, the Board elected to limit the league to 26 teams, with an emphasis on adding teams to the Western Conference.[25] However, it was decided at the 2015 Board of Governors meeting that the cap should be expanded to 30 teams, hoping to eventually match the NHL and AHL's (then) 30-team totals.[11] In 2023, ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin commented that the eventual goal was to match the AHL and NHL expansion to 32 teams.[26]

Defunct and relocated teams

Main article: List of defunct ECHL teams

Since starting with five franchises in its inaugural season, the ECHL has had dozens of franchises join and leave the league. Typically, these teams fold or relocate due to operation issues or financial losses. The Johnstown Chiefs became the last remaining founding franchise of the East Coast Hockey League to remain in its original city until it relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, following the completion of the 2009–10 season.[27]

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 2007–08 season, while the Toledo Walleye resumed play in their new arena for the 2009–10 season.

Seven former ECHL franchises have been directly replaced in their respective markets by American Hockey League franchises. The Greensboro Monarchs were the first, being replaced by the Carolina Monarchs in 1995. The Hampton Roads Admirals were the second, giving way to the Norfolk Admirals in 2000. The Peoria Rivermen were the third. In their case, the replacement franchise retained the Worcester IceCats history but assumed the Rivermen identity for their first AHL season of 2005–06. The Charlotte Checkers were the fourth, yielding to a franchise that retained the Albany River Rats history following the club's move to Charlotte following the 2009–10 season and assumed the Checkers identity.[28] In each of these cases, the ECHL franchise was relinquished to the league by its respective ownership group. In 2015, the three California franchises (Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, and Stockton Thunder) were displaced by the formation of an AHL Pacific Division. Each ECHL franchise involved in the territorial shift was either owned or purchased by their NHL affiliate prior to being relocated.[11]


Bloomington BisonTahoe Knight MonstersSavannah Ghost PiratesTrois-Rivières Lions (ECHL)Iowa HeartlandersNewfoundland GrowlersWorcester RailersWichita ThunderTulsa OilersRapid City RushQuad City MallardsKansas City MavericksIndy FuelBrampton BeastAllen AmericansSan Francisco BullsOrlando Solar BearsFort Wayne KometsJacksonville IcemenEvansville IceMenColorado EaglesChicago ExpressKalamazoo WingsElmira JackalsPhoenix Roadrunners (ECHL)San Diego Gulls (1995–2006)Long Beach Ice DogsLas Vegas WranglersIdaho SteelheadsFresno FalconsNorfolk Admirals (ECHL)Bakersfield Condors (1998–2015)Maine Mariners (ECHL)Alaska Aces (ECHL)Columbia InfernoTrenton TitansGreensboro GeneralsArkansas RiverBladesGreenville GrrrowlFlorida EverbladesNew Orleans BrassJackson BanditsChesapeake IcebreakersPeoria Rivermen (ECHL)Mississippi Sea WolvesAtlanta GladiatorsMobile MysticksCincinnati CyclonesMiami MatadorsLouisville RiverFrogsLouisiana IceGators (ECHL)South Carolina StingraysRoanoke ExpressManchester Monarchs (ECHL)Ontario Reign (ECHL)Texas WildcattersTexas WildcattersCharlotte Checkers (1993–2010)Toledo WalleyeToledo StormAugusta LynxRaleigh IceCapsDayton BombersReading RoyalsColumbus ChillRichmond Renegades (ECHL)Jacksonville Lizard KingsLouisville IceHawksAdirondack ThunderStockton ThunderAtlantic City Boardwalk BulliesBirmingham Bulls (ECHL)Cincinnati CyclonesPensacola Ice PilotsNashville KnightsColumbus CottonmouthsHampton Roads AdmiralsGreensboro MonarchsUtah GrizzliesLexington Men O' WarMacon Whoopee (ECHL)Tallahassee Tiger SharksHuntsville BlastVirginia LancersPee Dee PrideKnoxville CherokeesGreenville Swamp RabbitsJohnstown ChiefsVictoria Salmon KingsBaton Rouge KingfishErie PanthersWheeling NailersCarolina Thunderbirds

Current member Former member Future member Suspended member

Kelly Cup playoff format

For the 2012-13 season, eight teams still qualify in the Eastern Conference: the three division winners plus the next five teams in the conference. With the addition of the expansion franchise in San Francisco, the Board of Governors changed the Western Conference seeding such that eight teams qualify: two division winners and the next six teams in the conference. This eliminated the Western Conference first-round bye.[30]

Similar to the National Hockey League (NHL) at the time, the division winners were seeded as the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference and the top two seeds in the Western Conference; the conference winner faced the eighth seed, second faces seventh, third faces sixth and fourth faces fifth in the conference quarterfinal round. The winner of the 1st/8th series played the winner of the 4th/5th series while the 2nd/7th winner played against the 3rd/6th winner in the conference semifinal series. The Board of Governors also elected to change the playoff format such that all rounds of the playoffs are now best of seven series.[30] For 2012–13, the Conference Finals and Kelly Cup Finals will use a two-referee system.[25]

Because of the late addition of the CHL teams for the 2014–15 season and its subsequent conference alignment, the top four teams in each division qualified for the playoffs and the first two playoff rounds were played within the divisions.[31]

For the realignment prior to the 2015–16 season, the playoffs changed once again to a six-division format. At the end of the regular season, the top team in each division qualified for the playoffs and be seeded either 1, 2, or 3 based on the highest point total earned in the season. Then the five non-division winning teams with the highest point totals in each conference qualified for the playoffs and be seeded 4 through 8. All four rounds will be a best-of-seven format.[32]

The alignment changed back to four divisions for the 2016–17 season, but the playoffs kept the divisional format. The top four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs and play in the division for the first two rounds. After the division finals, the winners then play the conference finals and followed by the Kelly Cup finals.

ECHL Hall of Fame

Main article: 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.

See also


  1. ^ "Collective Bargaining Agreement between National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association" (PDF). NHL and NHLPA. July 22, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 20, 2008. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
  2. ^ "The ECHL - Premier 'AA' Hockey League | ECHL Alumni". Archived from the original on November 2, 2011. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  3. ^ "NHL/AHL Affiliations". ECHL. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  4. ^ "ECHL Terminates Newfoundland Membership". ECHL. Retrieved April 2, 2024.
  5. ^ Press release (July 14, 2008). "ECHL Toolbar Available Now". ECHL. Archived from the original on July 19, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  6. ^ "Annual ECHL Board of Governors Meeting Concludes". ECHL. June 21, 2010. Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  7. ^ Dheenshaw, Cleve (May 7, 2011). "RG opts to fold Salmon Kings franchise". Times Colonist. Retrieved May 19, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Selvam, Ashok (June 19, 2010). "Sears Centre to house new hockey team". Daily Herald. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  9. ^ Press release (May 31, 2011). "Board of Governors approves expansion membership for Colorado". ECHL. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  10. ^ "ECHL Accepts Seven Members". ECHL. October 7, 2014. Archived from the original on October 9, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c "ECHL Board of Governors Announces Major Moves". ECHL. January 30, 2015. Archived from the original on February 2, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  12. ^ "ECHL Approves Two Expansion Memberships". Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  13. ^ "Introducing the Savannah Ghost Pirates". Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  14. ^ "Savannah Ghost Pirates Unveiled As the New Pro-Hockey Team in Savannah". October 26, 2021. Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  15. ^ "Introducing the Tahoe Knight Monsters". Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  16. ^ "Introducing the Bloomington Bison". Retrieved January 24, 2024.
  17. ^ "ECHL Approves Expansion Team In Bloomington, Illinois". Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  18. ^ "ECHL Aims For 32 Teams But Must Be Cautious As It Grows". Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  19. ^ "ECHL's Newfoundland Growlers terminated by league". Retrieved April 2, 2024.
  20. ^ "ECHL Standings - Division". ECHL. Retrieved November 26, 2021.
  21. ^ "Admirals Announce Affiliation With NHL's Winnipeg Jets And AHL's Manitoba Moose". Norfolk Admirals. August 25, 2023. Retrieved April 26, 2024.
  22. ^ "Canes Announce Working Agreement With Norfolk Admirals". Carolina Hurricanes. August 31, 2023. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  23. ^ "Habs name Trois-Rivieres ECHL affiliate". The Sports Network. January 19, 2021.
  24. ^ a b Reporter, Lance Lysowski News Sports (July 13, 2013). "Sources: Sabres complete affiliation agreement with ECHL's Jacksonville Icemen". Buffalo News. Retrieved July 13, 2013.
  25. ^ a b "Annual ECHL Board of Governors Meeting Concludes". ECHL. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  26. ^ Klisivitch, Armand (March 17, 2023). "ECHL: A Chat With Commissioner Ryan Crelin". Inside the Rink.
  27. ^ Mastovich, Mike (February 15, 2010). "Chiefs plan to move franchise to South Carolina". Tribune-Democrat. Archived from the original on January 11, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  28. ^ Scott, David (February 11, 2010). "Checkers moving up in world". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved February 11, 2010.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ "Brampton Beast a Casualty of COVID-19". Brampton Beast. February 18, 2021. Archived from the original on February 18, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  30. ^ a b Press release (September 27, 2012). "Board of Governors approves playoff format, reserve list". ECHL. Archived from the original on September 30, 2012.
  31. ^ "Annual ECHL Board of Governors Meeting Concludes". ECHL. June 24, 2014. Archived from the original on June 25, 2014. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  32. ^ "Alignment, Playoff Format Announced for 2015-16 SEASON". ECHL. February 3, 2015. Archived from the original on May 7, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2015.