It was established in 1996 by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and commercial partner CWL Telesport and first contested in 1996–1997. In 1996–97, twenty teams played in five divisions. After home and away intra-division games, the division winners plus the three best second-placed teams went into the quarter-finals. The first winners were Finnish club TPS, who beat Russian HC Dynamo Moscow 5–2.
In the 1997–98 season, 24 teams competed in six divisions. The division winners and the two best second-placed teams progressed to the quarter-finals. The league was won by Austrian team VEU Feldkirch, who beat Russian side Dynamo Moscow 5–3.
In the 1998–99 season, 24 teams competed in six divisions. The top two in each division were paired off against each other in two-game, home-and-away series. The winners of these six playoffs went into the semi-final round, which was played in two groups of three. The winner of each of these two groups played in the final. For the third year in a row, Dynamo Moscow lost the final, this time to fellow-Russians Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
In the 1999–2000 season, 16 teams competed in four divisions. The two best clubs in each division advanced to the semi-final round, which was played as two-game, home-and-away series. The four winners of the semi-finals qualified for the EHL Top Four Final. In that final round, Metallurg Magnitogorsk defended its title, this time beating Czech club Sparta Prague 2–0.
Following consultation with its commercial partner, then called CWL Holding AG, the IIHF decided to suspend the running of the European Hockey League for the 2000–01 season. Despite financial investment and the improved quality of the contest, attention from the media, spectators, and TV networks in Europe was not seen as satisfactory. In order to optimize exposure of the league in Europe, the IIHF decided to consult with European broadcasters starting with the 2001–02 season. An international club competition, in the tradition of the previous European Cup, was staged by the IIHF for the 2000–01 season, but the European Hockey League did not restart.
|1996–97||TPS||5–2||Dynamo Moscow||Turku, Finland|
|1997–98||VEU Feldkirch||5–3||Dynamo Moscow||Feldkirch, Austria|
|1998–99||Metallurg Magnitogorsk||2–1 (OT)||Dynamo Moscow||Moscow, Russia|
|1999–2000||Metallurg Magnitogorsk||2–0||Sparta Prague||Lugano, Switzerland|
- Müller, Stephan : International Ice Hockey Encyclopedia 1904-2005 / BoD GmbH Norderstedt, 2005 ISBN 3-8334-4189-5
- "IIHF Club Competition History". International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
- "EHL 1996/97". Hockey Archives. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
- "EHL 1997/98". Hockey Archives. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
- "EHL 1998/99". Hockey Archives. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
- "EHL 1999/2000". Hockey Archives. Retrieved 2015-12-22.