Tampa Bay Signs McLaren

TAMPA, Fla. – The Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent defenseman Steve McLaren to a multi-year contact. McLaren was one of the 40 players in 2003-04 that played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, surpassing the high of 27 players in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.

Selected in the fourth round (85th overall) by Chicago in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, the 6-0 and 210-pound McLaren made his professional debut in the 1995 Riley Cup Playoffs with South Carolina accumulating 19 penalty minutes in two games.

The 29-year-old McLaren played six games in the NHL with St. Louis in 2003-04, accumulating 25 penalty minutes and an even rating. In his NHL debut with St. Louis on December 16, McLaren had a first period fight with Jody Shelley, who played for Johnstown in the ECHL in 1998-2000.

He also played with Worcester in the American Hockey League in 2003-04, scoring three points (2g-1a) and leading the team with 146 penalty minutes in 35 regular season games while also appearing in six playoff games. In six seasons in the AHL with Worcester (2001-04) and Philadelphia (1998-2001), McLaren has 21 points (10g-11a) and 1,117 penalty minutes in 297 regular season games and 48 penalty minutes in 25 playoff games.

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.

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.