PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced that for the 21st year in a row it is represented on the American Hockey League champion as 17 of the 28 players who played for Hershey played in the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League. The head coach of the Bears, who won their league record 11th title overall and third in the last five years, is former ECHL assistant coach Mark French and the assistant coach is former ECHL player and coach Troy Mann.
It is the most former ECHL players on an AHL champion surpassing the 15 players for Hershey in 2009-10. There have been 58 former ECHL players on the last four AHL winners and 76 former ECHL players on the last six champions.
The ECHL has had affiliations with 20 or more teams in the AHL the last nine years and in the past eight seasons there have been more ECHL players called up to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined.
The South Carolina Stingrays are the ECHL affiliate for Hershey and ECHL All-Star Braden Holtby, Johann Kroll, Patrick Wellar and Dylan Yeo all played for South Carolina this season. Stefan Della Rovere, Michal Neuvrith and Steve Pinizzotto played for the Stingrays last year. Sean Collins, Andrew Gordon and Patrick McNeill played for South Carolina in 2007-08 and Kyle Wilson played for the Stingrays in 2006-07. Wellar also played in the ECHL with Peoria (2004-05), Alaska (2005-07), Columbia (2007-08) and Reading (2008-09) while Yeo also played for Victoria from 2007-09.
The other former ECHL players on the Bears are Greg Amadio (Columbia, 2003-05), Keith Aucoin (Florida, 2001-02), Jay Beagle (Idaho, 2006-07), Simon Ferguson (Greenville, 2004-05; Augusta, 2006-07 and Utah, 2009-10), Boyd Kane (Charlotte, 1998-01) and Ashton Rome (Phoenix, 2008-09 and Idaho, 2009-10).
French is the sixth former ECHL coach to win the Calder Cup championship joining Peter Laviolette (Providence, 1999), Jim Playfair (Saint John, 2001), Claude Noel (Milwaukee, 2004), Bruce Boudreau (Hershey, 2006) and Bob Woods (Hershey, 2009).
Sixteen of the 24 players on runner-up Texas had ECHL experience with Richard Bachman (Idaho, 2009-10), Matt Beaudoin (Dayton, 2007-08 and Las Vegas, 2007-09), Matt Climie (Idaho, 2008-09), Maxime Fortunus (Louisiana, 2003-05), Aaron Gagnon (Idaho, 2007-08), Ethan Graham (Idaho, 2007-08 and Charlotte, 2008-10), Andrew Hutchinson (Toledo, 2002-03), Sergei Korostin (Idaho, 2009-10), Brent Krahn (Las Vegas, 2003-04 and 2008-09), Trevor Ludwig (Idaho, 2008-10), Scott McCulloch (Las Vegas, 2008-09), Travis Morin (South Carolina, 2006-09), Warren Peters (Idaho, 2003-05), Greg Rallo (Idaho, 2005-08), Matt Stephenson (Idaho, 2008-09) and Francis Wathier (Idaho, 2006-07).
Former Las Vegas head coach Glen Gulutzan, who was named ECHL Coach of the Year in 2006 and led the Wranglers to the 2008 Kelly Cup Finals, is in his first season as the Stars’ head coach. Other former ECHL personnel with the Stars are general manager Scott White, athletic trainer Brad Jellis, equipment manager Brian Garcia and broadcaster Josh Fisher.
Josh Tordjman, who played for the Phoenix RoadRunners in the ECHL, was selected as the AHL’s Man of the Year for 2010.
Seven times in the last 10 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.
For the third season in a row at least nine former ECHL players were named Reebok/AHL Player of the Week with former Dayton Bombers and Las Vegas Wranglers right wing Matt Beaudoin, former Augusta Lynx, Greenville Grrrowl, Pensacola Ice Pilots and Toledo Storm goaltender Mike Brodeur, former Columbia Inferno left wing Alex Foster, former Victoria Salmon Kings goaltender Leland Irving, former Utah Grizzlies goaltender Peter Mannino, former Texas Wildcatters defenseman Maxim Noreau, former Dayton Bombers and Florida Everblades goaltender Tyler Plante, former Bakersfield Condors goaltender Justin Pogge and former Wheeling Nailers goaltender Brad Thiessen.
There were 11 former ECHL players and two former ECHL coaches in the 2010 AHL All-Star Classic.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• The ECHL celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
• ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league with 20 teams in 15 states and British Columbia in 2009-10.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• 443 players have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including a record 53 in 2008-09.
• 35 ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2009-10. The most recent were: former Dayton, Kalamazoo, Mississippi and South Carolina goaltender Jeremy Duchesne (Philadelphia on April 1), former South Carolina Stingrays and Utah Grizzlies center Micheal Haley (New York Islanders on April 10), former Mississippi SeaWolves defenseman Scott Jackson (Tampa Bay on April 11), former Alaska and Las Vegas left wing and 2004 ECHL All-Star Charles Linglet (Edmonton on April 2) and former Texas Wildcatters defenseman Maxim Noreau (Minnesota on April 8).
• 6 players played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2009-10: Kyle Calder with Bakersfield and Anaheim, Tomas Kana with Alaska and Columbus, Jeremy Duchesne with Kalamazoo and Philadelphia, Dan Sexton with Bakersfield and Anaheim, MacGregor Sharp with Bakersfield and Anaheim and Matt Zaba with Charlotte and the New York Rangers.
• The ECHL has had 251 players reach the NHL since 2002-03 when it changed its focus to become the primary developmental league for the NHL and the AHL. The ECHL had 97 players reach the NHL in its first 10 seasons and 215 in the first 15 years.
• 187 ECHL players have played their first game in the last five seasons for an average of more than 37 per year.
• ECHL had a record 78 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 71 from a year ago and marking the seventh year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters.
• Every ECHL team has an affiliation with an NHL team and the league has affiliations with 28 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 13th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 28 coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and St. Louis Blues head coach Davis Payne. It is the fifth consecutive season that there have been 11 or more coaches with an ECHL background working in the NHL. Boudreau, who coached Mississippi for three seasons winning the Kelly Cup championship in 1999, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2007-08 becoming the first former ECHL coach to receive the award.
• 20 former ECHL officials are working as part of the NHL officiating team in 2009-10 with referees David Banfield, Francis Charron, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain Herbert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Bryan Pancich, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak and Jay Sharrers.
• ECHL was represented for the 10th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion with Chicago Blackhawks assistant coaches Mike Haviland and John Torchetti, developmental goaltending coach Wade Flaherty, senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac, general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard and scout Ryan Stewart. There were 35 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fifth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the seventh consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
• Former ECHL broadcasters working in the National Hockey League include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Tom Callahan of the Nashville Predators, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bob McElligott and John Michael of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rob Simpson, who is a producer/host for The NHL Network.
• Ryan Stanzel and Jeremy Zager, who were both recipients of the ECHL Media Relations Director of the Year award, are working in the communications department for the Minnesota Wild and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. Former ECHL assistant director of communications Joe Siville and Kelly Murray are now with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, respectively, while former ECHL director of communications Jason Rothwell is the creative director for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
• ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 20 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• In the last six seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,500 call-ups involving more than 1,300 players and in 2008-09 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,485 fans per game in 2009-10, the highest average since 1999-00, and is the only minor professional hockey league to increase average attendance each of the last three seasons. It is the sixth consecutive season and the 18th time in the last 20 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans and the league drew over 3 million fans for the 17th year in a row.
• There have been more than 75 million fans who have attended over 17,000 games since the ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.