West Coast Hockey League

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West Coast Hockey League
Wchllogo.PNG
Final WCHL logo
Formerly Pacific Southwest Hockey League
Replaced by ECHL (partial)
Sport Ice hockey
Founded 1995
No. of teams 14 (6–9 in any single season)
Country  United States
Ceased 2003
Last champion(s) San Diego Gulls
Most titles San Diego Gulls (5)

The West Coast Hockey League was a professional minor ice hockey league active in the western United States from 1995 to 2003. The number of teams ranged from six to nine. The teams were located in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Washington. The league was formed in part by a conversion of the Pacific Southwest Hockey League from semi-professional to professional status.

The surviving remnants of the West Coast Hockey League currently form part of the ECHL.

Beginnings[edit]

Original WCHL logo

The WCHL was a successor organization of the semi-professional Pacific Southwest Hockey League. Three former PSHL teams, the Alaska Gold Kings (Fairbanks, Alaska), Anchorage Aces (Anchorage, Alaska), and Fresno Falcons (Fresno, California) were joined by the Bakersfield Fog (Bakersfield, California), Reno Renegades (Reno, Nevada) and San Diego Gulls (San Diego, California) to become the founding member teams of the WCHL. The league retained these teams in a single division for its first two seasons, as well as played regular season games against a "Red Army" team from Russia (CKA-Amur, now Amur Khabarovsk).

Expansion[edit]

In the league's third season in 1997–98 the Alaska Gold Kings suspended operations. The remaining teams were joined by the expansion Idaho Steelheads (Boise, Idaho), Phoenix Mustangs (Phoenix, Arizona), Tacoma Sabercats (Tacoma, Washington) and Tucson Gila Monsters (Tucson, Arizona). The larger league was then split into Northern and Southern Divisions. Also, the teams in Reno and Fresno changed their names to the Reno Rage and Fresno's Fighting Falcons respectively.

The following season the Gold Kings relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and rejoined the league as the Colorado Gold Kings. The Fresno team reverted to its original name and the Bakersfield Fog renamed themselves the Bakersfield Condors. However, the Reno Rage ceased operations before the 1998–99 season while the Tucson Gila Monsters folded 21 games into the season. The WCHL then remained stable as an eight-team league after Tucson's departure and through the 1999–00 season.

In 2000–01 the Long Beach, California, Long Beach Ice Dogs of the International Hockey League joined the WCHL.

Decline and absorption into ECHL[edit]

The league began to contract in 2001–02 after the Phoenix Mustangs folded before the season. Before the 2002–03 season, the WCHL's last as an independent league, the Tacoma Sabercats and Colorado Gold Kings folded. The WCHL played in a single division in 2002–03 as it had its first two seasons.

In 2003, the WCHL was absorbed by the East Coast Hockey League. In a change reflective of the nationwide presence of the ECHL, the East Coast Hockey League formally changed its name to simply ECHL on May 19, 2003, as a direct result of the absorption. The six remaining WCHL teams (Anchorage, Bakersfield, Fresno, Idaho, Long Beach and San Diego) joined the West and Pacific Divisions of the ECHL's National Conference, as well as a planned WCHL team in Las Vegas, Nevada, which became the Las Vegas Wranglers. The Anchorage Aces renamed themselves the Alaska Aces before joining the ECHL.

Legacy[edit]

With the December 2008 demise of the Fresno Falcons[1] only two of the original 1995 WCHL teams – the Alaska Aces and Bakersfield Condors – remain active in the ECHL. All of the subsequent expansion teams which played in the WCHL except the Idaho Steelheads have since ceased operations as well. (The Las Vegas Wranglers – although planned for the WCHL – never actually played in the league). Efforts to resurrect the Reno Renegades/Rage organization as an ECHL team have been repeatedly delayed by problems in finding a suitable home arena in the Reno area.[2] However, since 2003 former WCHL teams have accounted for five Kelly Cup championships in the ECHL, Idaho in 2004 and 2007, and Alaska in 2006, 2011 and 2014.

Teams[edit]

Location of historical WCHL teams, 1995–2003. Red dots indicate teams active in the ECHL as of the 2013–14 season. Note teams were not necessarily contemporaneous with each other. For Alaska-based teams, see map below.
Location of historical WCHL teams in Alaska.

Taylor Cup[edit]

The WCHL's championship trophy was known as the Taylor Cup. It was named for the founder of the league, who also originally owned three of the six founding teams (Bakersfield, Fresno and Reno). The San Diego Gulls were by far the most successful postseason team in WCHL history, winning five of the eight Taylor Cup championships awarded.

Winners
  • 1996 - San Diego Gulls
  • 1997 - San Diego Gulls
  • 1998 - San Diego Gulls
  • 1999 - Tacoma Sabercats
  • 2000 - Phoenix Mustangs
  • 2001 - San Diego Gulls
  • 2002 - Fresno Falcons
  • 2003 - San Diego Gulls

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]