PRINCETON, N.J. – For the 11th consecutive year, the ECHL is represented on the Stanley Cup champion with Boston Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward, players Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder and Tim Thomas, radio broadcaster Dave Goucher and scout Tom McVie.
The Reading Royals are the ECHL affiliate of the Bruins. The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League has affiliations with 27 of the 30 teams in the NHL, marking the 14th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams. The ECHL had a record 79 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 78 from a year ago and marking the eighth year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters.
Ward was head coach of Arkansas during the 1999-00 season and is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Bruins.
Peverley began his professional career with South Carolina in 2004-05 scoring 58 points (30g-28a) in 69 regular season games and adding four points (2g-2a) in four Kelly Cup Playoffs games. He saw action in 11 games with Reading in 2005-06 scoring 15 points (4g-11a) before signing an American Hockey League contract with Milwaukee where he tallied 46 points (12g-34a) in 65 regular season games and 11 points (2g-9a) in 21 Calder Cup Playoffs games. He made his National Hockey League debut with Nashville in 2006-07 before being traded to Atlanta during the 2008-09 season. He was traded to the Bruins during the 2010-11 season.
Ryder appeared in five games with Tallahassee during the 2000-01 season and saw action in 20 games with Mississippi in 2001-02 scoring 36 points (18g-18a) in his 25 games of ECHL experience. He made his NHL debut with Montreal in 2003-04 and is in his third season with Boston.
Thomas went 4-1-1 with one shutout, a 2.17 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage in six games with Birmingham in 1997-98. He won the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the National Hockey League following the 2008-09 season, and is a finalist for the award again this season. He represented the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Thomas, who is the first former ECHL player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, set NHL records for most saves in one playoff year (849) and most saves in the Stanley Cup Final (238). He also became the first goaltender to record a shutout on the road in Game 7 of the Final.
In addition to Peverley, Ryder and Thomas, there are 18 former ECHL players who have been on the Stanley Cup winner: Mark Bernard, Mike Haviland, Al MacIsaac and John Torchetti (Chicago – 2010), Dan Bylsma and Ruslan Fedotenko (Pittsburgh – 2009), Aaron Downey (Detroit – 2008), Francois Beauchemin and George Parros (Anaheim – 2007), Andrew Hutchinson and Chad LaRose (Carolina – 2006), Ruslan Fedotenko, Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy (Tampa Bay – 2004), Corey Schwab (New Jersey – 2003), Manny Legace (Detroit – 2002), David Aebischer and Nolan Pratt (Colorado – 2001), Krzysztof Oliwa (New Jersey – 2000) and Kevin Dean (New Jersey – 1995). Fedotenko and Pratt are the only former ECHL players to have their name engraved twice on the Stanley Cup.
Goucher was the radio broadcaster for Wheeling from 1993-95 and has been with the Bruins since 2000. McVie was head coach of Wheeling in 1996-97, leading the Nailers to a 36-29-5 record and a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
In addition to Ward and McVie, there are four other former ECHL coaches to have their name engraved on the Stanley Cup. Peter Laviolette, who began his coaching career with Wheeling in 1996-97 and was the first former ECHL coach to win the Stanley Cup as a head coach with Carolina in 2006; Dave Farrish, who coached five seasons in the ECHL and was an assistant coach for Anaheim when the Ducks won in 2007; John Torchetti, who was an assistant coach with Greensboro for two seasons and was associate coach for Chicago during the Blackhawks 2010 championship; and Mike Haviland, who was head coach in Atlantic City from 2001-04 and Trenton in 2004-05 and was an assistant coach for the Blackhawks in 2010. Former ECHL player Dan Bylsma was head coach of Pittsburgh when the Penguins won in 2009.
The ECHL was represented in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by 34 former players and 19 coaches on the 16 teams. It was the sixth year in a row that there were at least 30 former ECHL players and the eighth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience competed in the NHL postseason. It marked the seventh straight year that the ECHL has been represented by at least six coaches.
There have been 467 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 23 who made their debut in 2010-11. The ECHL has had 275 players reach the NHL since 2002-03 when it changed its focus to become the primary developmental league for the NHL and the AHL. The ECHL had 97 players reach the NHL in its first 10 seasons and 215 in the first 15 years. There have been 211 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last six seasons for an average of more than 35 per year.
There were four players who played in the ECHL and the NHL this season: Mike Brodeur with Elmira and Ottawa, Timo Pielmeier with Elmira and Anaheim, Thomas McCollum with Toledo and Detroit and Yann Sauve with Victoria and Vancouver.
The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender Scott Gordon, who played his first game with the Quebec Nordiques against Buffalo on Jan. 30, 1990.
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, Jack Michaels of the Edmonton Oilers, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Bob McElligott and John Michael of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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
• Watch games live on America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
• 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 16 states for 2010-11.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 22 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• In the last seven seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,000 call-ups involving more than 1,500 players and in 2010-11 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.