PRINCETON, N.J. –The ECHL announced that there were more than 500 call ups to the American Hockey League involving more than 300 players in 2008-09. It is the fourth year in a row that there have been more than 400 call ups from the ECHL to the AHL and that more than 41 percent of the players who played in the ECHL also played in the AHL.
A call-up is defined as a player who is reassigned by a National Hockey League team, recalled by an AHL team or loaned by an ECHL team to an AHL team, and an individual player can experience multiple call-ups. The ECHL had affiliations with 23 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League in 2008-09 and for the past 20 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion including a record 15 for Hershey in 2008-09.
The ECHL averaged more than 22 call ups per team involving over 13 players on average per team. The ECHL call ups and the number of players involved are 10 times greater than all other professional leagues combined.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League celebrated its 21st season in 2008-09 and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
The ECHL is the primary development league for the AHL and the NHL. The ECHL and the AHL are the only two minor professional hockey leagues that are recognized in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association. The CBA states that any player on an NHL entry-level contract designated for assignment to a minor league must report if assigned to a team in the ECHL or the AHL. A player on an NHL entry-level contract assigned to a minor professional league other than the ECHL or the AHL is not required to report and can request reassignment to a team in the ECHL or the AHL.
Since 2002-03 the ECHL has had over 3,000 call-ups to the AHL involving more than 1,700 players which is more than the total call-ups for all other professional leagues combined during those seven seasons.
Twenty-two teams had at least one ECHL-contracted player called up to the AHL led by Reading with 13 and Elmira and Florida with 12. Johnstown had the most call ups with 43 followed by Florida with 41 and Stockton with 39.
There were 108 players on NHL contracts in the ECHL in 2008-09 and 22 teams had at least one player on an NHL contract. Stockton had the most players on an NHL contract with 11 followed by Gwinnett with 10 and South Carolina and Florida with nine each. The ECHL had 112 players on AHL contracts in 2008-09 and all 23 teams had at least one player on an AHL contract. Stockton had the most players on an AHL contract with 15 followed by Bakersfield, Florida, Phoenix and Trenton with nine each.
The ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2008-09 marking the 12th consecutive year for affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. There were a record 52 former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2008-09 and eight players played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2008-09 with goaltenders Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado), Wes O’Neill and Kevin Quick (Augusta and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders).
There have been 407 players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL including 215 players since 2002-03 when the ECHL changed its focus to become the primary developmental league for the NHL and the AHL. The ECHL had 96 players reach the NHL in its first 10 seasons and 215 in the first 15 years. There have been 151 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last four seasons for an average of more than 37 per year.
The ECHL has been represented on the last nine NHL champions including 2009 with Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, player Ruslan Fedotenko, equipment managers Dana Heinze and Dave Zeigler, athletic trainers Chris Stewart and Scott Adams and scout Derek Clancey. Chris Minard, who helped Alaska win the Kelly Cup in 2005-06, and John Curry, who played in the ECHL with Las Vegas and Wheeling, were members of the Penguins postseason practice squad and participated in the postgame celebration.
In addition to Bylsma, Fedotenko and Pratt there are 11 former ECHL players who have been on the Stanley Cup winner: David Aebischer (Colorado in 2001), Francois Beauchemin (Anaheim in 2007), Kevin Dean (New Jersey in 1995), Aaron Downey (Detroit in 2008), Andrew Hutchinson (Carolina in 2006), Chad LaRose (Carolina in 2006), Manny Legace (Detroit in 2002), Krzysztof Oliwa (New Jersey in 2000), George Parros (Anaheim in 2007), Andre Roy (Tampa Bay in 2004) and Corey Schwab (New Jersey in 2003).
The ECHL was represented in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by 43 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams. It was the fourth year in a row that there were at least 30 former ECHL players and the sixth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience competed in the NHL postseason. It marked the fifth straight year that the ECHL has been represented by at least six coaches. Seven former ECHL referees and three former ECHL linesmen worked the Stanley Cup Playoffs and eight other former ECHL officials worked in the NHL during the regular season.
Former ECHL coaches working as head coaches in the NHL are Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals and Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boudreau, who coached Mississippi for three seasons winning the Kelly Cup championship in 1999, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2007-08 becoming the first former ECHL coach to receive the award. Peter Laviolette, who began his coaching career with the Wheeling Nailers, led Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
The ECHL was represented in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game by Mark Streit of the New York Islanders and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins while former ECHL players Dan Ellis, Jonathan Quick and Tomas Vokoun have all been selected as recipients of the NHL’s “Three Stars” award this season.
Former ECHL broadcasters working in the National Hockey League include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Tom Callahan of the Nashville Predators, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Rob Simpson, who is a producer/host for The NHL Network.
Ryan Stanzel and Jeremy Zager, who were both recipients of the ECHL Media Relations Director of the Year award, are working in the communications department for the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Former ECHL assistant director of communications Joe Siville and Kelly Murray are now with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, respectively, while former ECHL director of communications Jason Rothwell is the creative director for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts• ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league with 20 teams in 15 states and British Columbia in 2009-10.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.