The Central Hockey League was a minor professional league that operated in the United States from 1963 to 1984. Initially named the Central Professional Hockey League, it was owned and operated by the National Hockey League and served as a successor to the Eastern Professional Hockey League, which had folded after the 1962-63 season. Four of the CHL's initial franchises were, in fact, relocations of the previous year's EPHL teams. Its founding president was Jack Adams, who served in the role until his death in 1968. The CHL's championship trophy was called the Adams Cup in his honor.
In the league's first season, all five teams were affiliated with an NHL club. The CHL initially consisted of the Indianapolis Capitals (formerly Sudbury Wolves Detroit Red Wings), Minneapolis Bruins (formerly Kingston Frontenacs Boston Bruins), Omaha Knights (formerly Hull-Ottawa Canadiens Montreal Canadiens), St. Louis Braves (same team Chicago Black Hawks) and the St. Paul Rangers (New York Rangers). The New York Rangers had not had a farm team in the EPHL in 1962-63.
In that first season, 1963-64, the Capitals were forced to relocate because of a terrible accident in their arena. They became the Cincinnati Wings.
From 1964 to 1970, teams from this league played exhibition games during the season against the Canadian national team.
After Adams's death, Emory Jones served as interim president until the appointment of lawyer Joe Kane in August 1968. Kane served one year as president, retiring in June 1969. Kane was succeeded by Jones, who held the job until retiring in 1974. Max McNab served as league president from 1974 until becoming general manager of the Washington Capitals during his second season. Ray Miron was hired as president in August 1976, but resigned less than three weeks later to accept the job as general manager of the Colorado Rockies. Before the end of the month, Bud Poile became league president and would hold the job until the CHL folded in 1984.
For the 1974-75 season, the CHL absorbed three teams, the Denver Spurs, Salt Lake Golden Eagles, and Seattle Totems, from the folding Western Hockey League. Denver and Seattle would play only one season, but Salt Lake would stay in the league until the end and would continue in the International Hockey League for the 1984-85 season, after the CHL ceased operations. For 1979-80, the CHL added the Cincinnati Stingers and Birmingham Bulls, the two teams from the World Hockey Association that were not admitted to the NHL that year.
Also during the 1979-80 season, the United States Olympic hockey team played games against each team in the CHL that counted in the standings. The team went on to win the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics. In the 1983-84 season, both the U.S. and Canadian Olympic hockey teams played games in the CHL.
The CHL's final champions, the Tulsa Oilers, were left without a home during their championship 1983-84 season when the team owners went into receivership. The league stepped in to keep the team operating, and the Oilers played all their games on the road from mid-February through the end of the playoffs. Their Cup-winning game on April 27, 1984 was the last game played in the CHL. The league folded the following month.
‡ Oilers team was left without a home after its owners in Tulsa went into receivership; played the last two months of the season and all playoff games as a road team, with salaries and expenses paid by the league.