Atlantic Coast Hockey League

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Atlantic Coast Hockey League
Sport Ice hockey
Founded 1981
Ceased 1987
CEO Ray Miron
President Bill Coffey
Country  United States
Last champion(s) Virginia Lancers
Most titles Carolina Thunderbirds (3)

The Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL) was a minor league hockey organization that operated between 1981 and 1987. The league was founded by Bill Coffey.[1] The Bob Payne Trophy was awarded to the team who won the league playoff championship.[2]

According to a 1985 Montreal Gazette article, rookies were paid "$150 a week plus $35 for a victory"[3] and veterans were paid "as much as $300 a week." League regulations also said that half the roster (eight out of fifteen players) must be rookie Americans.[4]


The ACHL's roots can be traced back to the former Eastern Hockey League (EHL) of the late 1970s and early 1980s. With a meeting of several EHL owners, the league decided to fold on July 19, 1981, and reorganize as the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. Teams and cities that were previous members of the Eastern Hockey League were interested in rejoining the league. Because the Mohawk Valley team being the most northern, the league was interested in inviting a sixth team to bridge the gap. Johnstown previously had an EHL team affiliated with the Red Wings and were the intended sixth team but due to the owner being ill, they were removed from the list. Richmond expressed interest, but due to questions about the financial stability of the league, they also dropped out. The Boston Bruins, along with several investors, were approached about putting a team in nearby Cape Cod. After an investor dropped out, Cape Cod Coliseum and WWF owner Vince McMahon purchased the rights to the franchise for $15,000.

Inaugural season

The ACHL opened with seven teams:

From the opening night of the season, McMahon was not happy with how the league was run. Schenectady and Fitchburg were owned by the same person. Fitchburg was placed under a league suspension and would fold after 6 games. Schenectady would fold after 9 games. In January 1982, McMahon tried to borrow $15,000 from the league, citing "slow cash flow". When the league denied his loan, McMahon folded his franchise. With the league now down to 4 teams, the league decided to end the season early and set the playoffs by geographical area to save on expenses. Coincidentally, the matchups did end up having the first and fourth place teams meet, along with the second vs third place teams. The Salem Raiders defeated the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds, and the Mohawk Valley Stars defeated the Baltimore Skipjacks. The Raiders and Stars played in the league final, with the Mohawk Valley Stars defeating the Raiders for the Bob Payne Trophy.

On July 24, 1987, Commissioner Ray Miron announced that the league would be suspending operations for the 1987–88 season. The Troy Slapshots had folded earlier in the previous season, and the Mohawk Valley Comets in Utica, NY had been replaced with an American Hockey League team. This left the league with only three teams—Erie, Virginia, and Carolina—not enough for it to make sense to operate.[5] Erie would cease operations, but the Lancers and Thunderbirds would transfer to the All-American Hockey League.


Two teams from the current ECHL have roots tracing back to the Atlantic Coast Hockey League

Wheeling Nailers:

Utah Grizzlies:


Unnamed team

In December 1985, Recreational Ice of North Carolina (RINC) was granted an ACHL franchise. RINC general manager Bob Ohrablo had planned to put the franchise in Asheville, North Carolina. The team was to play in a newly built arena, the 3200-seat Asheville Ice Garden. The arena was to be completed in October 1986 and the team was supposed to start play during the 1986–87 season.

A name the team contest was to be held in February 1986, with the winner to be announced in March.[6] It is unknown if a winner was ever announced.


Bob Payne Trophy

The Bob Payne Trophy was awarded to the playoff champion at the end of each season. The trophy is named after Bob Payne, an executive with several teams in the Southern Hockey League and Eastern Hockey League. The trophy was loaned to the winning team for one year and was returned at the start of the following year's playoffs. The Carolina Thunderbirds were the only multiple winners of the trophy, having won it three of the six years, including back-to-back wins in 1984–85 and 1985–86.

Regular season champions

ACHL All-Stars


ACHL Playoff MVP

  • 1984–85: Brian Carroll, Carolina Thunderbirds
  • 1985–86: Bob Doré, Carolina Thunderbirds

ACHL Rookie Of The Year



  1. Scott, Jon C. (2006). Hockey Night in Dixie: Minor Pro Hockey in the American South. Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd. p. 185. ISBN 1-894974-21-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "A to Z Encyclopaedia of Ice Hockey – At".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Schenectady Gazette – Google News Archive Search".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The Montreal Gazette – Google News Archive Search".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Google News Archive Search".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The Times-News – Google News Archive Search".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

See also