PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced that referee David Jones is the inaugural recipient of the Ryan Birmingham Memorial Award.
The award honors an On-Ice Official for his contributions and dedication to the league officiating staff and is determined in voting of ECHL On-Ice Officials. It is named in honor of ECHL linesman Ryan Birmingham, who tragically lost his life in an automobile accident in May 2007.
“I am honored to be recognized by my fellow officials for an award that is in memory of such a good friend,” said Jones. “My wife, Stephanie, and I will proudly display the Big Birm award in our home that Ryan helped renovate before his untimely passing. We all continue to miss Big Birm.”
An ECHL official for the last six seasons, Jones has worked more than 500 regular season games as well as the Kelly Cup Playoffs every season, including the Kelly Cup Finals in 2005 and the conference finals in 2004 and 2007.
“It is very fitting and deserving that David Jones would be selected by his peers as the first recipient of the Ryan Birmingham Award,” said ECHL Director of Officiating Bryan Lewis. “David’s dedication to the ECHL and his fellow officials is appropriately recognized.”
Born in Kamloops, British Columbia and raised in Hope, British Columbia, Jones worked in the Western Hockey League in 2001-02 after two seasons in the British Columbia Junior A Hockey League where he worked both the league and conference finals. He spent three seasons in the Pacific International Junior B League working the finals in 1998 and 1999.
The 2007-08 edition of the ECHL Rule Book is dedicated to the memory of Birmingham, who is featured on the back cover, and ECHL on-ice officials wore a commemorative patch on their left shoulder that has 60, which is the number that Birmingham wore, and the initials RJB.
Birmingham began his officiating career when he was 12 years old in the Southgate Minor Hockey Association and worked his way into the USA Hockey Junior Officiating Development Program in 2003. Birmingham was hired as a full-time linesman by the ECHL in 2006 and worked 83 games in the regular season and four games in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, including his final game, Florida at Charlotte on Apr. 17.
Four former ECHL referees and three former linesmen worked in the National Hockey League Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The referees are Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Kevin Pollock and Chris Rooney while the linesmen are Steve Barton, Jay Sharrers and Tim Nowak, who in 2003 became the first ECHL official to work in the Stanley Cup Finals. Barton, Leggo, McCauley, Nowak, Pollock and Sharrers all worked in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In addition to the seven working in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there were 10 former ECHL officials who worked as part of the NHL officiating team in 2007-08 with referees David Banfield, Chris Ciamaga, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kyle Rehman, Justin St. Pierre, Ian Walsh and Dean Warren, and linesman Brian Mach.
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and 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 that will play with 24 teams in 16 states and British Columbia in 2008-09.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the NHL in 2007-08, marking the 11th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 355 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including 99 in the last three seasons. There have been 210 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past seven seasons.
There are 15 coaches in the NHL who have ECHL experience including former Wheeling coach Peter Laviolette, who is head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, and former Mississippi coach Bruce Boudreau, who is head coach of the Washington Capitals.
The ECHL is represented for the seventh consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2007 with Anaheim assistant coach Dave Farrish, players Francois Beauchemin and George Parros and broadcasters John Ahlers and Steve Carroll.
The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 and for the past 18 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion.
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.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.