Aces coach Thompson heads to American Hockey League

Alaska Aces head coach Brent Thompson has been named the head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. The Sound Tigers are the top affiliate of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders.

Thompson received the John Brophy Award as ECHL Coach of the Year in 2010-11 after leading the Aces to a regular-season record of 47-22-3 and the Brabham Cup as ECHL regular-season champions. Alaska went 12-1 in the postseason on its way to capturing the second Kelly Cup in team history.

In two seasons with the Aces, Thompson was 83-50-11 in the regular season and 13-4 in the postseason.

Prior to joining Alaska, Thompson was an assistant coach with Peoria of the AHL from 2005-09 and was a player/assistant coach for Colorado of the Central Hockey League in 2003-04. Thompson played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League. Thompson played 14 seasons in the NHL, AHL, IHL and CHL from 1991-2005. Selected in the second round (39th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Thompson played six seasons in the NHL from 1991-97 and had 11 points (1g-10a) and 352 penalty minutes in 121 regular-season games with Los Angeles, Winnipeg and Phoenix. He was selected to play in the IHL All-Star Game as a rookie in 1991-92 and received the AHL’s Yanick Dupre Memorial Award in 1998-99 for outstanding contribution to community and charity.

Twenty-five coaches with an ECHL background worked behind the benches of teams in the AHL in 2010-11 including Abbotsford Heat head coach Jim Playfair, Albany Devils head coach Rick Kowalsky, Hershey Bears head coach Mark French, Manitoba Moose head coach Cluade Noel, Peoria Rivermen head coach Jared Bednar, Rochester Americans head coach Chuck Weber and Texas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan.

Seven times in the last 11 years the winner of the AHL Coach of the Year award has been a former ECHL coach including Scott Gordon, Mike Haviland and Kevin Dineen in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Former ECHL coaches won the award four consecutive years from 2001-04 with Don Granato, Bruce Cassidy, Geoff Ward and Claude Noel. The first former ECHL coach to win the award was Peter Laviolette in 1999.

The ECHL had affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the American Hockey League in 2010-11 and for the past 22 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.

In the last eight seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,000 call-ups involving more than 1,500 players and in 2010-11 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.

Former ECHL broadcasters working in the AHL include Brendan Burke of the Peoria Rivermen, Josh Fisher of the Texas Stars, Josh Heller of the Albany Devils, Mike Kelly of the Springfield Falcons, Eric Lindquist of the Worcester Sharks, Jason Lockhart of the Syracuse Crunch, Joe O’Donnell of the Houston Aeros, Bob Rotruck of the Adirondack Phantoms, Jason Shaver of the Chicago Wolves, Jason Shaya of the Charlotte Checkers, Dan Weiss of the San Antonio Rampage and Grady Whittenburg of the Binghamton Senators.