The Elmira Jackals started play in 2000 with the opening of First Arena, then known as Coach USA Center, as an affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackals began in the United Hockey League (UHL) and opened on the road for the first 10 games of their first season as construction on the brand-new downtown arena was being completed. The Jackals first home game came on November 11, 2000 in front of 3,378 fans as the Jackals won, 5-2, over Knoxville. The Jackals finished the season with seven wins in their final 10 games under Head Coach Todd Brost to finish second in the Northeast Division and make the playoffs while being named UHL franchise of the year.
In their second season as a franchise, the Jackals reached the Colonial Cup Finals in 2001-02 after finishing with the best record (45-21-8) in the Eastern Conference. They would win their first two playoff series before losing in six games to the Muskegon Fury in the championship series.
After losing in the second round of the playoffs in the 2002-03 season, the Jackals made another run to the Colonial Cup Finals in 2003-04, despite a 33-34-9 record in the regular season. Their surprise run to the finals was ended again by the Muskegon Fury in four games. After early on-ice success through their first four years as a franchise, the Jackals struggled during their remaining three seasons in the UHL, failing to make the playoffs each season.
In the summer of 2007, the Jackals joined the ECHL and introduced a new logo for the 2007-08 season. They re-established an affiliation with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets and AHL’s Syracuse Crunch for their first season. The move to the ECHL saw the Jackals end a three-year playoff drought, finishing the season with a 41-24-3-4 record under new Head Coach Steve Martinson. They qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs, where they fell to the Reading Royals in the Conference Quarterfinals.
Before the 2008-09 season, the Jackals ended their affiliation with Columbus to become affiliated with the Ottawa Senators and Binghamton Senators. The Jackals finished with a 39-26-2-5 record and again made the playoffs, losing in the second round after knocking out the Trenton Devils in seven games in the opening round.
The Jackals made the playoffs for the third straight year in 2009-10, but were eliminated in the opening round.
Before the 2010-11 season, the Jackals entered into an affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, giving them a dual affiliation with the Ottawa Senators. The Jackals made the playoffs for the fourth straight season, but were eliminated in the first round by Greenville.
The Jackals hired Pat Bingham as their new head coach before the start of the 2011-12 season, which turned out to be the most successful in team history. Bingham led the team to a franchise-best 45-22-2-3 record, good for 95 points, the most in the Eastern Conference during the season. After knocking out the Reading Royals in five games to open the playoffs, the Jackals would be eliminated by the eventual Kelly Cup Champion Florida Everblades in the second round.
The Jackals followed up in 2012-13 with another strong season after ending their affiliation agreement with Anaheim. The Jackals went 40-25-3-4 and made the playoffs for a sixth-straight ECHL season, dropping their opening round series to the Florida Everblades.
In 2013-14 the Jackals signed an affiliation agreement with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and AHL’s Albany Devils, which lasted for one season. The Jackals remained affiliated with the Senators as well, but the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since joining the ECHL, ending the season with a 24-40-3-5 record.
Prior to the 2014-15 season, the Jackals opened a new affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and AHL’s Rochester Americans, ending their partnerships with the Senators and Devils. The Jackals went 32-33-0-7, but missed the postseason.
In 2015-16 the Jackals set a franchise record by winning 21 road games and finished the season with a 37-30-3-2 record. With 79 points, the Jackals finished three points shy of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff position, missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the third straight year.