Central Hockey League
Final CHL logo
|Replaced by||ECHL (partial)|
|Countries|| United States
|Last champion(s)||Allen Americans|
|Most titles||(tie) Allen Americans, Wichita Thunder, Oklahoma City Blazers, Memphis RiverKings, Laredo Bucks, & Colorado Eagles (2)|
The Central Hockey League (CHL) was a North American mid-level minor professional ice hockey league which operated in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Until 2013, it was owned by Global Entertainment Corporation, at which point it was purchased by the individual franchise owners.
Several teams of defunct leagues joined the CHL along its history, most notably the Southern Hockey League, Western Professional Hockey League and International Hockey League. After two teams ceased operations during the 2014 offseason, the remaining seven were accepted as members of the ECHL in October 2014, meaning the end for the CHL after 22 seasons.
The Central Hockey League (CHL) was revived in 1992 by Ray Miron and the efforts of Bill Levins, with the idea of central ownership of both the league and the teams. Both men were from hockey backgrounds. Miron had been general manager of the Colorado Rockies (now the New Jersey Devils), and had briefly been president of the previous Central Hockey League in 1976.
In the inaugural 1992–93 season the league had six teams, including the Oklahoma City Blazers, the Tulsa Oilers, the Wichita Thunder, the Memphis RiverKings, the Dallas Freeze and the Fort Worth Fire. The Thunder and the Oilers are the last of the league's original teams extant.
In 1996–97 the Huntsville Channel Cats, along with the planned 1996–97 Southern Hockey League expansion teams Columbus Cottonmouths, Macon Whoopee, and Nashville Nighthawks, joined the Central Hockey League following the SHL's demise.
After Levins died, the league's championship trophy (awarded to the winner of the CHL playoffs) was renamed the Levins Cup. After running the league for eight years, Miron retired in 2000 and sold the league. The Levins Cup was renamed the Ray Miron President's Cup.
After experiments in expansion and an ongoing battle for players and markets with the Western Professional Hockey League (WPHL) throughout the late 1990s, the CHL merged with the WPHL in 2001, with 10 former WPHL teams joining the CHL for the 2001–02 season. However, several years of gradual contraction in the former WPHL markets claimed most of these teams in the ensuing years. The last active former WPHL team, the Fort Worth Brahmas, effectively ceased operations following the 2012–13 season.
Subsequently, in 2010, the International Hockey League folded and all five remaining IHL teams joined the CHL. As of the end of the 2013–14 season only the Quad City Mallards remain from the former IHL.
In October 2013, the CHL appointed former president of the Pittsburgh Penguins and President of NHL Enterprises for fifteen years Steve Ryan as its league Commissioner. He succeeded Duane Lewis who worked with the league for several years in a variety of capacities culminating as league commissioner. Duane succeeded Brad Treliving on an interim basis after Treliving took a position with the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes following the 2006–07 season. Treliving co-founded the WPHL in 1996, and after the 2001 merger, served with the CHL for seven years. Lewis was named the permanent commissioner in June 2008.
On May 2, 2014 the St. Charles Chill ceased operations.
According to the Central Hockey League website, within two days, the Arizona Sundogs and Denver Cutthroats "suspended operations, effective immediately, and will not compete in the 2014-15 season. The teams will look to secure additional investors with the hope of returning for the 2015-16 campaign."
- Allen Americans, 2009–14, joined CHL as an expansion team in 2009. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.
- Amarillo Gorillas (WPHL 1996–2001, CHL 2001–10)
- Arizona Sundogs (2006–14)
- Austin Ice Bats (2001–08)
- Bloomington Blaze (Bloomington, IL; 2011-13 CHL, moved to SPHL)
- Bloomington PrairieThunder (Bloomington, IL; 2006–07 UHL, 2007–10 IHL, 2010–11 CHL. The team failed to contact U.S Cellular coliseum for an extended lease. As a result, a new CHL franchise named the Bloomington Blaze replaced them. The team officially ceased operations on July 3, 2011)
- Border City Bandits (Texarkana, TX; 2000–01 season only, suspended by league on 2/20/01)
- Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs (Bossier City–Shreveport, Louisiana; WPHL 1997–2001, CHL 2001–11; folded on June 10, 2011)
- Brampton Beast, (Brampton, Ontario); 2013–14, joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.
- Colorado Eagles (Loveland, CO; 2003–11, moved to ECHL)
- Columbus Cottonmouths (Columbus, GA; 1996–2001, moved to ECHL from 2001–04 and SPHL from 2004)
- Corpus Christi IceRays (2001–10, replaced by NAHL franchise of same name)
- Dallas Freeze (1992–95)
- Dayton Gems (Dayton, OH; 2009–10 IHL, 2010–12 CHL)
- Denver Cutthroats (2012–14)
- El Paso Buzzards (WPHL 1996–2001, CHL 2001–03)
- Evansville IceMen (Evansville, IN; 2010–12, moved to ECHL)
- Fayetteville Force (1997–2001)
- Fort Wayne Komets (Fort Wayne, IN; 1952–99 IHL, 1999–2007 UHL, 2007–10 IHL, 2010–12 CHL, moved to ECHL)
- Fort Worth Brahmas (Fort Worth, TX; 1997-2001 WPHL, 2001–06, 2007-13 CHL)
- Fort Worth Fire (1992–99)
- Huntsville Channel Cats (began in Southern Hockey League 1995–96, moved to CHL from 1996–2000, changed name to Huntsville Tornado in 2000–01)
- Indianapolis Ice (began play in IHL from 1988–99, moved to CHL from 1999–2004. Franchise relocated to Topeka, Kansas where they were renamed the Topeka Tarantulas for 2004–05)
- Laredo Bucks (2002–12, franchise sold and moved to St. Charles, Missouri, played as St. Charles Chill in 2013–14)
- Lubbock Cotton Kings (2001–07)
- Macon Whoopee (1996–2001, moved to ECHL for 2001–02)
- Mississippi RiverKings (1992–2011, known as Memphis RiverKings from 1992–2007, moved to SPHL for 2011–12.)
- Missouri Mavericks (2009–14), joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.
- Nashville Nighthawks (1996–97, changed name to Nashville Ice Flyers for 1997–98)
- New Mexico Scorpions (Rio Rancho, NM; WPHL 1996–2001, CHL 2001–09)
- Odessa Jackalopes (2001–11, replaced by NAHL franchise of the same name. The ownership group left the CHL and joined the North American Hockey League (NAHL) by purchasing an existing NAHL franchise, moving it to Odessa and adopting the same name.)
- Oklahoma City Blazers (1992–2009, folded on July 2, 2009)
- Quad City Mallards (2010–14), joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.
- Rapid City Rush (2008–14), joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.
- Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (Hidalgo, TX; 2003–12) Replaced by a team in the NAHL.
- Rocky Mountain Rage (Broomfield, CO; 2006–09)
- San Angelo Outlaws (WPHL 1997–2001, CHL 2001–02, changed name to San Angelo Saints from 2002–05)
- San Antonio Iguanas (1994–97, 1998–2002)
- St. Charles Chill (2013–14)
- Topeka ScareCrows (1998–2001)
- Tulsa Oilers (1992-2014), joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.
- Wichita Thunder (1992-2014), joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.
- Youngstown SteelHounds (2005–08)
|Year||Teams||Expansion||Defunct||Suspended||Return from Hiatus||Relocated||Name Changes|
Fort Worth Fire
Oklahoma City Blazers
|1994–95||7||San Antonio Iguanas|
Huntsville Channel Cats
|1997–98||10||Fayetteville Force||San Antonio Iguanas (went to IHL)||Nashville Nighthawks → Nashville Ice Flyers|
|1998–99||11||San Antonio Iguanas
|Nashville Ice Flyers|
|1999–00||11||Indianapolis Ice||Fort Worth Fire|
|2000–01||12||Border City Bandits||Border City Bandits (defunct mid-season)||Huntsville Channel Cats → Huntsville Tornado|
|2001–02||16||Amarillo Rattlers (from WPHL)
Austin Ice Bats (from WPHL)
Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs (from WPHL)
Corpus Christi Icerays (from WPHL)
El Paso Buzzards (from WPHL)
Fort Worth Brahmas (from WPHL)
Lubbock Cotton Kings (from WPHL)
New Mexico Scorpions (from WPHL)
Odessa Jackalopes (from WPHL)
San Angelo Outlaws (from WPHL)
|Columbus Cottonmouths (to ECHL)
Macon Whoopie (to ECHL)
|2002–03||16||Laredo Bucks||San Antonio Iguanas||Amarillo Rattlers → Amarillo Gorillas
San Angelo Outlaws → San Angelo Saints
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
|El Paso Buzzards|
|2004–05||17||Indianapolis Ice → Topeka Tarantulas|
|2005–06||15||Youngstown SteelHounds||San Angelo Saints
|New Mexico Scorpions|
Rocky Mountain Rage
|Texas Brahmas||New Mexico Scorpions||Fort Worth Brahmas → Texas Brahmas|
|2007–08||17||Lubbock Cotton Kings||Texas Brahmas||Memphis RiverKings → Mississippi RiverKings|
|2008–09||16||Rapid City Rush||Youngstown Steelhounds||Austin Ice Bats|
|New Mexico Scorpions
Oklahoma City Blazers
Rocky Mountain Rage
|2010–11||18||Bloomington PrairieThunder (from IHL)
Dayton Gems (from IHL)
Evansville IceMen (from IHL)
Fort Wayne Komets (from IHL)
Quad City Mallards (from IHL)
|Corpus Christi IceRays (to NAHL)||Amarillo Gorillas|
|2011–12||14||Bloomington Blaze||Bloomington Prairie Thunder
Colorado Eagles (to ECHL)
Mississippi RiverKings (to SPHL)
Odessa Jackalopes (to NAHL)
|2012–13||10||Denver Cutthroats||Evansville IceMen (to ECHL)
Fort Wayne Komets (to ECHL)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
|Laredo Bucks → St. Charles Chill (to begin play in 2013–14)||Texas Brahmas → Fort Worth Brahmas|
St. Charles Chill
|Bloomington Blaze (to SPHL)||Fort Worth Brahmas|
- 1993 – Tulsa Oilers
- 1994 – Wichita Thunder
- 1995 – Wichita Thunder
- 1996 – Oklahoma City Blazers
- 1997 – Fort Worth Fire
- 1998 – Columbus Cottonmouths
- 1999 – Huntsville Channel Cats
- 2000 – Indianapolis Ice
- 2001 – Oklahoma City Blazers
- 2002 – Memphis RiverKings
- 2003 – Memphis RiverKings
- 2004 – Laredo Bucks
- 2005 – Colorado Eagles
- 2006 – Laredo Bucks
- 2007 – Colorado Eagles
- 2008 – Arizona Sundogs
- 2009 – Texas Brahmas
- 2010 – Rapid City Rush
- 2011 – Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs
- 2012 – Fort Wayne Komets
- 2013 – Allen Americans
- 2014 – Allen Americans
- "ECHL Accepts Seven New Members", ECHL, October 7, 2014. (accessed 13 October 2014)
- "Treliving new Coyotes assistant GM". Azcentral.com. July 19, 2007. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
- "News". centralhockeyleague.com. June 17, 2008. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
- "Denver Elects Dormancy for the 2014-15 Season". centralhockeyleague.com. August 20, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
- "CHL Clubs Join ECHL for 2014-15 Season". Central Hockey League. October 7, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- "ECHL Accepts Seven Members". ECHL. October 7, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- "Jacks make move to North American Hockey League official | hockey, league, american - Central Hockey League - Odessa American Online". Oaoa.com. 2011-03-23. Retrieved 2012-01-29.
- Stott, Jon C. (2006). Hockey Night in Dixie: Minor Pro Hockey in the American South. Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd. pp. 16–201. ISBN 1-894974-21-2.