The Central Hockey League (CHL) was a North American mid-level minor professional ice hockey league which operated from 1992 until 2014. It was founded by Ray Miron and Bill Levins and later sold to Global Entertainment Corporation, which operated the league from 2000 to 2013, at which point it was purchased by the individual franchise owners. As of the end of its final season in 2014, three of the 30 National Hockey League teams had affiliations with the CHL: the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
|Countries|| United States|
|Most titles||(tie) Allen Americans, Wichita Thunder, Oklahoma City Blazers, Memphis RiverKings, Laredo Bucks, & Colorado Eagles (2)|
Several teams of defunct leagues joined the CHL along its history, including the Southern Hockey League, Western Professional Hockey League and International Hockey League. After two teams suspended operations during the 2014 offseason, the ECHL accepted the remaining seven teams as members 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.
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; the last of these, the Quad City Mallards, folded in 2018 in the ECHL.
Brad Treliving, who co-founded the WPHL in 1996, became CHL commissioner following the merger, before leaving to join the Phoenix Coyotes. Duane Lewis was named the permanent commissioner in June 2008. In October 2013, the CHL appointed former president of the Pittsburgh Penguins Steve Ryan to succeed Lewis.
On March 8, 2013, the Central Hockey League announced an expansion team in Brampton, Ontario. The Brampton Beast would become the first Canadian team in the CHL's history. In October 2013, the Central Hockey League was purchased from Global Entertainment by all the team owners, putting the CHL business model in line with that of the NHL and AHL.
On May 2, 2014 the St. Charles Chill ceased operations. Soon after, the Arizona Sundogs and Denver Cutthroats suspended operations. On October 7, 2014, it was announced that the ECHL had accepted the Central Hockey League's remaining seven teams as members for the 2014–15 season, officially signaling the end of the Central Hockey League after 22 seasons.
The Allen Americans, who won the last two CHL President's Cups, won two consecutive ECHL titles following the folding of the Central Hockey League.
The Mississippi RiverKings, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder were the last of the original six franchises still playing at the end of the CHL's tenure; the RiverKings since folded, in 2018. In the 2014–15 season, ten teams (Allen, Brampton, Colorado, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Missouri, Quad City, Rapid City, Tulsa, and Wichita) were in the ECHL, two teams (Mississippi and Columbus) were in the SPHL, and four organizations (Corpus Christi, Fort Worth Brahmas, Odessa, and Rio Grande Valley) fielded junior teams in the NAHL.
Of the CHL's teams, as of 2021, Tulsa, Wichita, Allen, Colorado, Fort Wayne, Missouri (now Kansas City), Rapid City and still are active.
- 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 to 2002. Suspended operations on May 19, 2010 and were replaced by the Amarillo Bulls of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in the same year.)
- 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; 2006–10 UHL/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. Launched a new NAHL team in 2016 as the Shreveport Mudbugs.)
- 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 to 2004. 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. Ceased operations 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 the same year.)
- 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 and renamed the Topeka Tarantulas for 2004–05.)
- Laredo Bucks (Laredo, Texas; 2002–12. Franchise folded 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 to 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.)
- 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. 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. Replaced by the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League in 2010.)
- 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 to 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, due to an ownership issue. However, they finished the season and played their last game on April 10, 2001. The ScareCrows would be replaced by a junior hockey team of the same name the following season in the United States Hockey League.)
- Topeka Tarantulas (Topeka, Kansas; 2004–05. Franchise originally known as the Indianapolis Ice before relocating.)
- 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||Nashville Nighthawks → Nashville Ice Flyers|
|1998–99||11||Topeka Scarecrows||Nashville Ice Flyers||San Antonio Iguanas|
|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)
Macon Whoopie (replaced by ECHL)
Topeka Scarecrows (replaced by USHL)
|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|
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- "Treliving new Coyotes assistant GM". Azcentral.com. July 19, 2007. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
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- "CHL Clubs Join ECHL for 2014-15 Season". Central Hockey League. October 7, 2014. Archived from the original on October 7, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- "ECHL Accepts Seven Members". ECHL. October 7, 2014. Archived from the original on October 9, 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. March 23, 2011. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
- 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.