Began in 1988 with five teams in three states, the ECHL welcomes new markets in Phoenix, Stockton (California) and Utah (Salt Lake City) and will play with 25 teams in 14 states and one Canadian province in 2005-06.
The Premier “AA” Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League and there have been 299 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 43 who have made their NHL debut in 2005-06. The ECHL had affiliations with 21 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 16 years, there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
Every team begins the season with the goal of winning the Patrick J. Kelly Cup, presented annually to the ECHL postseason champion and won in 2005 by the Trenton Titans. The league regular season point champion is presented with the Henry Brabham Cup which was won in 2004-05 by the Pensacola Ice Pilots.
In 2004-05, the ECHL drew 4,035,770 fans in the regular season, marking the seventh time in history it has surpassed four million, and averaged 4,004 per game, increasing its attendance for the second season in a row. The ECHL had 42 sellouts in the regular season and 13 teams saw their average attendance increase from the previous season. The 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs Finals averaged 6,799 per game, the largest finals average since 1998, and the postseason average attendance was up more than nine percent from 2004 to 3,931 per game.