The ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) is a mid-level professional ice hockey league based in Princeton, New Jersey with teams scattered across the United States and one franchise in Canada. It is a tier below the American Hockey League.
The ECHL and the AHL are the only minor leagues recognized by the collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association, meaning any player signed to an entry-level NHL contract and designated for assignment must report to a club in either the ECHL or the AHL. Additionally, the league's players are represented by the Professional Hockey Players' Association in negotiations with the ECHL itself. 528 players have advanced from the ECHL to play in the NHL.
All but four National Hockey League teams have affiliations with an ECHL team with Columbus, Florida, New Jersey, and St. Louis having no official affiliations as of July 20, 2016. However, these teams do sometimes lend contracted players to ECHL teams for development and increased playing time.
The league's regular season begins in October and ends in April. The current ECHL champion is the Allen Americans.