PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced that referee Joe Ernst has decided to retire following 16 seasons as an on-ice official in the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, and that he will be joining the league’s hockey operations department.
“The ECHL was the beneficiary of Joe’s abilities the past 16 years and he leaves the ice as one of our top officials,” said Rod Pasma, ECHL Vice President of Hockey Operations. “The transition for Joe to management should be seamless as his experience and knowledge of both the ECHL and the game of hockey will be a tremendous asset to our officiating department.”
Ernst’s last game was Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Finals on May 27 at the Nutter Center in Ohio. Ironically, he worked his first ECHL game in Columbus, Ohio in October 1991 alongside linesman Norm Eberle, who retired after the 2006 Kelly Cup Playoffs following 16 years and more than 1,200 games.
“I am very excited to take on this role which will allow me to continue working with the ECHL,” said Ernst. “I look forward to having the opportunity to work closely with Bryan Lewis and the rest of our supervisory staff to help our officials improve and get the opportunity to advance to the next level.”
In addition to the ECHL, Ernst has worked in both the American Hockey League and the International Hockey League, including the Calder Cup Playoffs and the Turner Cup Playoffs, while also being a member of the National Hockey League official trainees program for seven years, including working three NHL preseason games.
Born in Hamburg, N.Y., he worked the ECHL playoffs for 16 consecutive years and officiated more than 200 postseason games, including each of the past six Kelly Cup Finals and the Riley Cup Finals in 1993, 1994 and 1995. He refereed more than 1,000 regular season games in the ECHL and in 1999 was selected as the referee for the ECHL All-Star Game.
Ernst has lived in Wheeling, W. Va. for the past 13 years with his wife, Donna.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in three states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league that will have 25 teams playing in 17 states and British Columbia in 2007-08, including the Mississippi (Biloxi) Sea Wolves, who return after missing two seasons in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Opening Day for the 20th Anniversary Season will be Oct. 18 when the Johnstown Chiefs host the Wheeling Nailers at Cambria County War Memorial. The game is a rematch of Game 7 from the first-ever ECHL Finals played in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Cambria County War Memorial. The two teams will wear throwback jerseys for the Opening Day game that begins at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast worldwide on B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider of the ECHL”. The remaining teams will open their seasons the weekend of Oct. 19-21.
There have been 329 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 47 in 2005-06 and 26 in 2006-07. There have been 184 former ECHL players who have played their first game in the NHL in the past five seasons and 107 former ECHL players have skated in the NHL this season. More than 100 players under contract to NHL teams have played in the ECHL this season. The ECHL had affiliations with 25 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2006-07, marking the 10th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
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 24 of the 27 teams in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and for the past 17 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.