SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League announced that the Edmonton Oilers have named Geoff Ward, who began his professional coaching career in the ECHL, as head coach of the Falcons.
The Stockton Thunder is the ECHL affiliate of Edmonton.
Ward, who coached in Germany this past season, was the Oilers development coach in 2005-06 when Edmonton came within one win of its sixth Stanley Cup Championship. It is his third stint as head coach of Edmonton’s primary AHL affiliate having served as head coach of the Edmonton Road Runners in 2004-05 and the Toronto Roadrunners in 2003-04. Ward began his career with the Oilers in January 2001 as an assistant coach with Hamilton of the AHL. He began the following season as an assistant, but was named head coach in January, following Claude Julien’s promotion to the Montreal Canadiens. Ward, who led the Bulldogs to the Calder Cup Finals where they lost in seven games, and Julie were named co-winners of the AHL Coach of the Year award.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the AHL in 2006-07 marking the sixth season in a row that the ECHL had affiliations with 20 or more teams in the AHL.
In each of the last two seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL and there were over 800 call-ups involving more than 500 players. In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.
In addition to Ward, there are 12 other former ECHL coaches who are head coaches in the AHL – Dave Allison of Iowa, Dave Baseggio of Peoria, Bruce Boudreau of Hershey, Jack Capuano of Bridgeport, Kevin Dineen of Portland, Scott Gordon of Providence, Mike Haviland of Norfolk, Greg Ireland of Grand Rapids, Kurt Kleinendorst of Lowell, Claude Noel of Milwaukee, Kjell Samuelsson of Philadelphia and Roy Sommer of Worcester.
Haviland became the sixth former ECHL coach to be named AHL Coach of the Year in 2006-07. The AHL Coach of the Year award was won by ECHL coaches four years in a row from 2001-04 with Claude Noel (2004), Geoff Ward (2003), Bruce Cassidy (2002) and Don Granato (2001). The first former ECHL coach to win the award was former Wheeling and current Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette in 1999.
There are nine assistant coaches in the AHL with ECHL experience – Scott Allen of Omaha, Dan Bylsma of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, David Cunniff of Worcester, J.J. Daigneault of Hartford, Kevin Dean of Lowell, Ted Dent of Norfolk, Gord Dineen of San Antonio, Matt Shaw of Houston and Bob Woods of Hershey – while Scott White is director of hockey operations for Iowa.
The CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week award was won 14 times by a former ECHL player in 2006-07 while a former ECHL goaltender was named the Rbk X-Pulse/AHL Goaltender of the Month the last five months of the season.
Six former ECHL players were on the All-AHL Teams in 2006-07 with former Charlotte goaltender Jason LaBarbera, who also won Goaltender of the Year; former Mississippi defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who also was named Defenseman of the Year; and former Greenville center Martin St. Pierre being named to the First Team. Former Roanoke and Wheeling left wing Jason Jaffray and former Florida center Keith Aucoin were named to the All-AHL Second Team and former Long Beach goaltender Jaroslav Halak was named to the AHL All-Rookie team.