PRINCETON, N.J. – Former South Carolina Stingrays player and coach Jared Bednar, who is in his first season as head coach of the American Hockey League’s Peoria Rivermen, has been selected as one of two coaches for the Western Conference in the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic, to take place Jan. 30-31 in Hershey, Pa. Bednar will be joined behind the bench by John Hynes of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Hynes and Bednar earned the honor because their teams will own the best record in their respective conference as of the pre-determined deadline, the end of play Sunday. Hynes’s Penguins are tops in the Eastern Conference with a record of 29-8-0-0 (.784), while Bednar’s Rivermen are leading the Western Conference with a record of 24-10-2-1 (.689).
Bednar, 38, became Peoria’s head coach in 2010-11 after spending last season as an assistant coach with the Abbotsford Heat. Prior to that, Bednar spent seven seasons with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays as an assistant coach, head coach and general manager, guiding the club to the league championship in 2009. Bednar is the only person to win the Kelly Cup as both a player and a head coach, winning the title as a defenseman in 2001 and as head coach in 2009.
Twenty-five coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the AHL 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 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.
The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the American Hockey League in 2010-11 and for the past 21 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion. Former ECHL coach Mark French is the head coach of the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears, while former ECHL player and coach Troy Mann is the Bears’ assistant coach.
In the last seven 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 2009-10 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.