PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Cincinnati Cyclones forward Cory Conacher became the 491st player to play in the National Hockey League after the ECHL when he made his debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 6-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
The 23-year-old tallied two points (1g-1a), was a +1 and registered two shots on goal in 13:50 of ice time for the Lightning, whose line-up also included former ECHL players B.J. Crombeen, Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson. Former ECHL player Daniel Lacroix is an assistant coach with the Lightning.
The Florida Everblades are the ECHL affiliate of the Lightning and the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
Conacher tallied seven points (5g-2a) in three games with the Cyclones in 2010-11 while adding one goal in two games with Rochester of the American Hockey League. Last season, he was named both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the AHL after posting 80 points (39g-41a) in 75 regular-season games. He added 15 points (2g-13a) in 18 postseason contests, helping the Admirals to their first Calder Cup championship.
The ECHL had a record 87 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the 81 from a year ago and marking the 10th year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters. The ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 30 NHL teams, marking the 16th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 491 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 23 in 2011-12. The ECHL has had 299 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. There have been 235 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last eight seasons for an average of more than 29 per year.
There are 30 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan, Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel. It is the eighth 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. Bylsma, who played in the ECHL with Greensboro from 1992-94, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2010-11.
There are 26 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2012-13 with referees Darcy Burchell, Francis Charron, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert, Marc Joannette, Trent Knorr, Mike Leggo, Dave Lewis, T.J. Luxmore, Wes McCauley, Jon McIsaac, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Graham Skilliter, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh, and linesmen Steve Barton, Matt MacPherson, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak, Bryan Pancich and Jay Sharrers.
The ECHL was represented for the 12th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion in 2012 with Los Angeles Kings assistant coach Jamie Kompon, players Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Jonathan Quick, manager of communications/broadcasting Jeremy Zager and scouts Steve Greeley, Mark Mullen and Mark Yannetti. Quick was named recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the second consecutive year a former ECHL player won the award. There were 43 former players and 13 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the seventh year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the ninth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender and current Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Scott Gordon, who played his first game with the Quebec Nordiques against Buffalo on Jan. 30, 1990. The 100th player honor is shared by Jean Sebastien Aubin and Manny Legace, who both made their debut on Oct. 21, 1998 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. The 200th player was Brett McLean with the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 10, 2002 while the 300th was David Liffiton with the New York Rangers on Apr. 11, 2006 and the 400th was Phil Oreskovic on Mar. 9, 2009 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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, Jack Michaels of the Edmonton Oilers, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Bob McElligott of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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 works in the communications department for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2012-13 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 23 teams in 16 states in 2011-12.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• In the last eight seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,500 call-ups involving more than 1,800 players and in 2011-12 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,281 fans per game in 2011-12, marking the eighth consecutive season and the 20th time in the last 22 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.