PRINCETON, N.J. – For the 18th year in a row there is a former ECHL player on the American Hockey League champion. Hamilton has 12 players on its roster which is the most players from the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League on a Calder Cup winner.
The Bulldogs, who beat Hershey 2-1 on Thursday to win the series in five games, have seven players who played in the ECHL this season with Mathieu Aubin, Jimmy Bonneau, Cedrick Desjardins, Jon Gleed, Greg Stewart and Cory Urquhart, who all played for the Cincinnati Cyclones, and Troy Bodie, who played for Stockton.
The other Hamilton players with ECHL experience are Andrew Archer (Columbus, 2003-04), Ajay Baines (Greenville, 1999-2000), Michael Lambert (Long Beach, 2004-06), Eric Manlow (Columbus, 1996-97 and Florida, 1998-2000), and Philippe Sauve (Mississippi, 2004-05). The last three AHL winners have had 31 former ECHL players, including 11 a year ago.
Defending champion Hershey had 17 former ECHL players on its roster, including seven who played in the league this year, as well as head coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach Bob Woods. Boudreau is the only coach to win both the Kelly Cup (Mississippi in 1999) and the Calder Cup (Hershey in 2006). The ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the AHL in 2007-08 and 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. Since 2002-03 the ECHL has had over 2,000 call-ups to the AHL involving more than 1,000 players which is more than the total call-ups for all other professional leagues combined during those five seasons.
In 2006-07 there were 91 players on an AHL contract who were assigned to a team in the ECHL. The ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 27 teams in the AHL, marking the sixth consecutive season that the ECHL had affiliations with 20 or more teams in the AHL.
There are 12 assistant coaches in the AHL who have ECHL experience with Scott Allen of Quad City, Pat Bingham of Bridgeport, Dan Bylsma of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, David Cunniff of Worcester, J.J. Daigneault of Hartford, Kevin Dean of Lowell, Ted Dent of Norfolk, Gord Dineen of San Antonio, Neil Little of Philadelphia, Kjell Samuelsson of Philadelphia, Matt Shaw of Houston and Bob Woods of Hershey – while Scott White is director of hockey operations for Iowa.
There are 12 former ECHL coaches who are head coaches in the AHL – Dave Allison of Iowa, Dave Baseggio of Peoria, Bruce Boudreau of Hershey, Jack Capuano of Bridgeport, Kevin Dineen of Portland, Scott Gordon of Providence, Mike Haviland of Norfolk, Greg Ireland of Grand Rapids, Kurt Kleinendorst of Lowell, Claude Noel of Milwaukee, Roy Sommer of Worcester and Geoff Ward of Springfield. Haviland became the sixth former ECHL coach to be named AHL Coach of the Year in 2006-07. The AHL Coach of the Year award was won by ECHL coaches four years in a row from 2001-04 with Claude Noel (2004), Geoff Ward (2003), Bruce Cassidy (2002) and Don Granato (2001). The first former ECHL coach to win the award was former Wheeling and current Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette in 1999.
The CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week award was won 14 times by a former ECHL player in 2006-07 while a former ECHL goaltender was named the Rbk X-Pulse/AHL Goaltender of the Month the last five months of the season.
Six former ECHL players were on the All-AHL Teams in 2006-07 with former Charlotte goaltender Jason LaBarbera, who also won Goaltender of the Year; former Mississippi defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who also was named Defenseman of the Year; and former Greenville center Martin St. Pierre being named to the First Team while former Roanoke and Wheeling left wing Jason Jaffray and former Florida center Keith Aucoin were named to the Second Team. Former Long Beach goaltender Jaroslav Halak was named to the AHL All-Rookie team.
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.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has 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.
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 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.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.