PRINCETON, N.J. – When the 2003-04 American Hockey League season opens on Wednesday, there will be 14 former ECHL coaches behind the benches of AHL teams. Seven former ECHL coaches are head coaches in the AHL and the ECHL has a coach behind the bench on 14 of the 28 teams. The ECHL has affiliation agreements with 21 of the 28 teams in the AHL in 2003-04.
Scott Gordon is in his first season as head coach of Providence while Claude Noel is in his first season as head coach with Milwaukee. Gordon played for Johnstown in 1988-89 and on January 30, 1990 he became the first ECHL player to play in the National Hockey League when he made his debut with the Quebec Nordiques against the Buffalo Sabres. Gordon returned to the ECHL with Nashville in 1992-93 and Knoxville in 1993-94, and stepped behind the bench as head coach of Roanoke from 1998-2000. Noel was named ECHL Coach of the Year after leading Toledo to the Brabham Cup in 2002-03.
Doug Shedden is in his first season as head coach of St. John’s while Geoff Ward is head coach of Toronto, which will be playing its inaugural AHL season in 2003-04. Shedden coached Louisiana from 1995-99 while Ward coached Arkansas in 1999.
Roy Sommer, who coached Roanoke Valley and Richmond in the ECHL, is the head coach with Cleveland, his sixth season as the head coach of San Jose’s top affiliate. In his final ECHL season in 1995-96, Sommer was named ECHL Coach of the Year after leading Richmond to the Brabham Cup with a league-best 46-11-13 record and a league-record 105 points. He led Richmond to a 41-20-7 record and the Riley Cup Championship in 1994-95. He was named head coach of the East Team for the 1995 ECHL All-Star Game and was named head coach of the North Team for the 1996 ECHL All-Star Game. Serving as Sommer’s assistant for the second season in a row will be David Cunniff, who played for Jacksonville and Raleigh in 1996-97 and Raleigh in 1997-98.
Bruce Boudreau, who led Mississippi to the 1999 Kelly Cup Championship, is beginning his third season as the head coach of Manchester while Don Granato, who coached in Columbus (Ohio) from 1997-99 and Peoria in 1999-2000, is in his fourth season as the head coach of Worcester. Granato, who led Peoria to the 2000 Kelly Cup Championship, was named the AHL Coach of the Year following his rookie season in 2000-01, a season that saw Worcester win a team record 48 games and the AHL regular-season title with 108 points.
Nick Fotiu, who coached Nashville and Johnstown in the ECHL, is an assistant coach with Hartford while Mark Kumpel, who coached Nashville and Dayton in the ECHL, is an assistant coach with Portland. Scott Allen, who coached Johnstown from 1997-2002, is in his second season as an assistant with San Antonio, and David Baseggio, who was an assistant coach with Charlotte in 2000-01, is in his third season as an assistant coach with Bridgeport. Kjell Samuelsson, who was an assistant coach with Trenton in 1999-2000, is in his fourth season as an assistant coach with Philadelphia while Greg Ireland, who coached Dayton from 1998-2003, is in his first season as an assistant coach with Grand Rapids. Matt Shaw, who coached Mobile in 1997-98, is in his third season as an assistant coach with Houston.
In 2002-03, the ECHL had affiliation agreements with 22 of the 28 teams in the AHL and there were more than 80 players in the ECHL on AHL contracts. The ECHL had 450 call ups to the AHL in 2002-03, the most since a record 453 call ups to the 19 teams of the AHL and the 13 teams of the International Hockey League in 1999-2000.