league centered primarily in the U.S. Southeast
, although teams extend as far north as New Jersey
. Its position in pro hockey's hierarchy is roughly equivalent to AA baseball
, in that players are two steps away from the National Hockey League
. The level of play, though, is probably more comparable to Single-A
ball; AA baseball players usually have the physical skills for the big leagues and are building the necessary mental skills, while ECHL play is considerably slower and less skilled than even that of the American Hockey League
. The few future NHL players that do play in this league proceed from the ECHL to the AHL, and from that league to the NHL.
Going to an ECHL game would, for a hockey purist, feel like watching Slap Shot come to life. There are plenty of fights and plenty of random entertainment at the arena that has nothing to do with hockey. Regardless of this (or perhaps because of it), this league, along with the marketability of Wayne Gretzky when he joined the Los Angeles Kings, has had a lot to do with making hockey a truly national sport in the United States.