West Coast Hockey League
Final WCHL logo
|Formerly||Pacific Hockey League|
|Replaced by||ECHL (partial)|
|No. of teams||14 (6–9 in any single season)|
|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 surviving remnants of the West Coast Hockey League currently form part of the ECHL.
The WCHL was a successor organization of the semi-professional Pacific Hockey League. Three former PHL 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).
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 1999–2000 season.
Decline and absorption into ECHL
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 as a non-division league 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 (Alaska, 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.
With the 2015 move of the Bakersfield Condors to Norfolk, Virginia, to become the Norfolk Admirals, only two former WCHL teams – the Alaska Aces and Idaho Steelheads – remain active in the ECHL in their original markets. 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. 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.
- Alaska (Fairbanks) Gold Kings (1995–1997)
- Anchorage Aces (1995–2003)
- Bakersfield Fog (1995–1998)
- Bakersfield Condors (1998–2003)
- Colorado (Colorado Springs) Gold Kings (1998–2002)
- Fresno Falcons (1995–2003, known as "Fresno's Fighting Falcons" during the 1997–98 season)
- Idaho Steelheads (1997–2003)
- Long Beach Ice Dogs (2000–2003)
- Phoenix Mustangs (1997–2001)
- Reno Renegades (1995–1997)
- Reno Rage (1997–1998)
- San Diego Gulls (1995–2003)
- Tacoma Sabercats (1997–2002)
- Tucson Gila Monsters (1997–1999)
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.
- 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
- List of developmental and minor sports leagues
- List of ice hockey leagues
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