PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced that the National Hockey League has hired Francis Charron, who worked as a full-time referee in the ECHL in 2008-09 including Games 1, 4 and 7 in the Kelly Cup Finals.
The 25 year old, who began his professional career as a part-time referee in the ECHL in 2007-08, worked for the NHL during the 2008-09 preseason as a referee for a rookie tournament with the Florida Panthers, the Ottawa Senators, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“The experience that I gained working with professional players in the ECHL was great and the ECHL hockey operations department spends a lot of time working with their officials to help make them better,” said Charron. “It is exciting to take this next step towards my dream of working in the NHL.”
“We are pleased to hear that Francis has been hired by the National Hockey League as he proved throughout the course of this past season that he has the ability to work at the next level” said ECHL Director of Officiating Joe Ernst. “We are pleased that the NHL has recognized the ECHL as the primary development league for young officials and hope to continue the success we have had developing young talented officials for them.”
Before being hired by the ECHL, Charron worked six seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League beginning as a linesman in 2002 before becoming a referee in 2003. He worked the President Cup Finals four times and three Memorial Cup Tournaments as well as the 2005 World Under-18 Championship, the 2006 C.I.S. National Championship and the World Junior Championships in 2007 and 2008.
In addition to Charron there are 18 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2009-10 with David Banfield, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain Hebert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak and Jay Sharrers.
Barton, Joannette, Leggo, McCauley, Nowak, O’Rourke, Pollock, Rooney, Sharrers and Walsh all worked in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Joannette worked the Stanley Cup Finals while Leggo, Pollock and Sharrers worked the conference semifinals. It was the third year in a row that Barton, Leggo, McCauley, Nowak, Pollock and Sharrers have worked the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Former ECHL coaches working as head coaches in the NHL are Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders and Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is head coach of the Stanley Cup champion 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. There are 18 assistant coaches in the NHL who were players or coaches in the ECHL.
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).
Former ECHL and current Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was the recipient of the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender in the NHL and was also presented the William Jennings Trophy with teammate Manny Fernandez as the goaltenders finishing the season having surrendered the fewest goals. Thomas was also named First Team All-NHL after registering a career-high 36 wins while leading the NHL with a goals-against average of 2.10 and a save percentage of .933 to help the Bruins finish with the most wins (53) and points (116) since 1971-72.
There were 43 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fourth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the sixth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
There have been 407 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 52 in 2008-09. There were nine players who played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2008-09 with goaltenders Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Elmira, Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Chris Holt (Alaska and St. Louis), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Wes O’Neill (Johnstown and Colorado), Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado) and Kevin Quick (Augusta, Elmira and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders).
The ECHL has had 215 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 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 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 in 2008-09.
The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender and current New York Islanders head coach 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, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bob McElligott and John Michael of the Columbus Blue Jackets 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
• 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 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.
• ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 20 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• In the last six seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,500 call-ups involving more than 1,300 players and in 2008-09 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.