EDMONTON, Alberta – The Edmonton Oilers have signed forward Mike Bishai, who was selected to the Southern Conference roster for the 2003 ECHL All-Star Game, but was unable to play after being called up to the American Hockey League. Bishai was one of the 40 players in 2003-04 that played in the NHL for the first time after playing in the ECHL, surpassing the high of 27 players in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.
In his first full professional season in 2002-03, the 5-11 and 185-pound Bishai scored 29 points (12g-17a) in 25 regular season games with Columbus and 12 points (7g-5a) in 27 regular season games and three points (2g-1a) in six playoff games with Hamilton.
Undrafted and signed as a free agent by Edmonton on May 28, 2002, the 25-year-old Bishai played his first NHL game with Edmonton on January 29, 2004 in a 5-2 win over Chicago and he scored two points (0g-2a) in 14 games with the Oilers in 2003-04. He played the remainder of the season in the AHL with Toronto, scoring 33 points (11g-22a) in 48 regular season games while also appearing in three playoff games for the Roadrunners.
There were former ECHL coaches behind the benches of 14 of the 28 teams in the American Hockey League and all 28 teams in the AHL had an ECHL player take the ice for them in 2003-04. The ECHL had affiliation agreements with 21 of the 28 teams in the AHL and there were over 90 players on AHL contracts in the ECHL in 2003-04. There were more than 220 players that played in both the ECHL and the AHL in 2003-04 and the ECHL had 425 call-ups, involving 234 players, to the AHL during the regular season.
For the 15th consecutive season, an ECHL player is a member of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Champion. In addition to Claude Noel, who is in his first season as head coach, Milwaukee had eight players and radio announcer Kyle Schultz, who are all alumni of the ECHL.
The Premier “AA” Hockey League, the ECHL had affiliations with 21 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2003-04 and every NHL team had an ECHL player play for it in 2003-04. Eleven players, including eight goaltenders, appeared in both the ECHL and the NHL in 2003-04, breaking the high of five players in 2001-02, and a total of 116 ECHL players played in the NHL in 2003-04. There have been 255 players that have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL.
For the fifth consecutive year the ECHL is represented on the Stanley Cup Champion with Ruslan Fedotenko, Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy as well as radio play-by-play announcer Dave Mishkin and assistant equipment manager Dana Heinze.