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 (Allen, Texas; 2009–14. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.)
- Amarillo Gorillas (Amarillo, Texas; 1996–2001 WPHL, 2001–10 CHL. Originally named the Amarillo Rattlers from 1996–2002. Suspended operations on May 19, 2010 and were replaced by the Amarillo Bulls of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in 2010.)
- Arizona Sundogs (Prescott Valley, Arizona; 2006–14. Suspended operations on August 20, 2014.)
- Austin Ice Bats (Austin, Texas; 1996–2001 WPHL, 2001–08 CHL. Suspended operations on May 7, 2008 and the franchise was never re-established.)
- Bloomington Blaze (Bloomington, Illinois; 2011-13 CHL. Joined the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) under new ownership as the Bloomington Thunder on May 15, 2013.)
- Bloomington PrairieThunder (Bloomington, Illinois; 2006–07 UHL, 2007–10 IHL, 2010–11 CHL. Failed to contact U.S Cellular coliseum for an extended lease leading to a new professional hockey franchise named the Bloomington Blaze replacing them. Officially ceased operations on July 3, 2011.)
- Border City Bandits (Texarkana, Texas; 2000–01. Franchise suspended by league mid-season on February 20, 2001.)
- Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs (Bossier City–Shreveport, Louisiana; 1997–2001 WPHL, 2001–11 CHL. Franchise folded on June 10, 2011.)
- Brampton Beast, (Brampton, Ontario; 2013–14. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.)
- Colorado Eagles (Loveland, Colorado; 2003–11. Joined the ECHL on May 29, 2011.)
- Columbus Cottonmouths (Columbus, Georgia; 1996–2001. Joined the ECHL from 2001–04. Joined the SPHL in 2004.)
- Corpus Christi IceRays (Corpus Christi, Texas;1998–2001 WPHL, 2001–10 CHL. Owners purchased a NAHL franchise on May 21, 2010 and replaced the CHL team with a team of the same name.)
- Dallas Freeze (Dallas, Texas; 1992–95.)
- Dayton Gems (Dayton, Ohio; 2009–10 IHL, 2010–12 CHL. Folded on May 17, 2012.)
- Denver Cutthroats (Denver, Colorado; 2012–14. Suspended operations on August 20, 2014.)
- El Paso Buzzards (El Paso, Texas; 1996–2001 WPHL, 2001–03 CHL.)
- Evansville IceMen (Evansville, Indiana; 2010–12, Joined the ECHL on May 17, 2012.)
- Fayetteville Force (Fayetteville, North Carolina; 1997–2001.)
- Fort Wayne Komets (Fort Wayne, Indiana; 1952–99 IHL, 1999–2007 UHL, 2007–10 IHL, 2010–12 CHL, Joined the ECHL on May 17, 2012.)
- Fort Worth Brahmas (Fort Worth, Texas; 1997-2001 WPHL, 2001–06, 2007-13 CHL. League announced Fort Worth would suspend operations on June 16, 2013 and the team would be replaced by a NAHL team called the Lone Star Brahmas in 2013.)
- Fort Worth Fire (Fort Worth, Texas; 1992–99.)
- Huntsville Channel Cats (Huntsville, Alabama; 1995–96 SHL, 1996–2001 CHL, changed name to Huntsville Tornado for 2000–01.)
- Indianapolis Ice (Indianapolis, Indiana; 1988–99 IHL, 1999–2004 CHL. Franchise relocated to Topeka, Kansas where they were renamed the Topeka Tarantulas for 2004–05.)
- Laredo Bucks (Laredo, Texas; 2002–12. Franchise suspended on May 1, 2012 before being sold on August 1, 2012 and moved to St. Charles, Missouri. Played as St. Charles Chill for the 2013–14 season.)
- Lubbock Cotton Kings (Lubbock, Texas; 1999–2001 WPHL, 2001–07 CHL. Suspended operations June 20, 2007 and the franchise was never re-established)
- Macon Whoopee (Macon, Georgia; 1996–2001, folded and replaced with another team of the same name in the ECHL for 2001–02.)
- Mississippi RiverKings (Southaven, Mississippi; 1992–2011, known as Memphis RiverKings from 1992–2007, moved to SPHL on June 13, 2011.)
- Missouri Mavericks (Independence, Missouri; 2009–14. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.)
- Nashville Ice Flyers (Nashville, Tennessee; 1996–98. Originally called the Nashville Nighthawks for the 1996–97 season. Team folded shortly after the 1997–98 season due to the introduction of the NHL's Nashville Predators expansion team.)
- New Mexico Scorpions (Rio Rancho, New Mexico; 1996–2001 WPHL, 2001–09 CHL. Folded on July 2, 2009)
- Odessa Jackalopes (Odessa, Texas; 1997–2001 WPHL, 2001–11 CHL, 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 (Oklahoma City; 1992–2009. Folded on July 2, 2009.)
- Quad City Mallards (Moline, Illinois; 2009–10 IHL, 2010–14 CHL. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.)
- Rapid City Rush (Rapid City, South Dakota; 2008–14. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.)
- Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (Hidalgo, Texas; 2003–12. Ceased operations on June 20, 2012 and was replaced by a team of the same name in the NAHL in 2013.)
- Rocky Mountain Rage (Broomfield, Colorado; 2006–09. Suspended operations on June 18, 2009 and the franchise was never re-established)
- San Angelo Saints (San Angelo, Texas; 1997–2001 WPHL, 2001–05 CHL. Originally named the San Angelo Outlaws from 1997–2002.)
- San Antonio Iguanas (San Antonio, Texas; 1994–97, 1998–2002. Ceased operations on June 26, 2002 after the AHL team, the San Antonio Rampage, was introduced.)
- St. Charles Chill (St. Charles, Missouri; 2013–14. Ceased operations on May 2, 2014)
- Topeka ScareCrows (Topeka, Kansas; 1998–2001. Franchise terminated by the league on February 20, 2001, however continued to finish the season until playing their last game and officially folding on April 10, 2001.)
- Topeka Tarantulas (Topeka, Kansas; 2004–05.)
- Tulsa Oilers (Tulsa, Oklahoma; 1992-2014. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.)
- Wichita Thunder (Wichita, Kansas; 1992-2014. Joined the ECHL on October 7, 2014.)
- Youngstown SteelHounds (Youngstown, Ohio; 2005–08. Franchise terminated by the league for non-payment of league dues on June 2, 2008.)
|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 Ice Rays (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)
|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||Corpus Christi Ice Rays → Corpus Christi Rayz|
|2004–05||17||Indianapolis Ice → Topeka Tarantulas|
|2005–06||15||Youngstown SteelHounds||San Angelo Saints
|New Mexico Scorpions|
Rocky Mountain Rage
|Fort Worth Brahmas||New Mexico Scorpions|
|2007–08||17||Lubbock Cotton Kings||Fort Worth Brahmas||Fort Worth Brahmas → Texas Brahmas
Memphis RiverKings → Mississippi RiverKings
|2008–09||16||Rapid City Rush||Austin Ice Bats
|Corpus Christi Rayz → Corpus Christi IceRays|
|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 (replaced by NAHL)
|2011–12||14||Bloomington Blaze||Bloomington Prairie Thunder
Colorado Eagles (to ECHL)
Mississippi RiverKings (to SPHL)
Odessa Jackalopes (replaced by NAHL)
|2012–13||10||Denver Cutthroats||Evansville IceMen (to ECHL)
Fort Wayne Komets (to ECHL)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
|Laredo Bucks||Texas Brahmas → Fort Worth Brahmas|
|2013–14||10||Brampton Beast||Bloomington Blaze (to SPHL)
Fort Worth Brahmas
|Laredo Bucks||Laredo Bucks → St. Charles Chill|
- 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.