PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL continued to be the leader in developmental leagues in 2004-05 as evidenced by the league providing over 78 percent of the roster additions to the 28 teams in the American Hockey League.
The Premier “AA” Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 23 of the 28 teams in the AHL in 2004-05 and there were five head coaches and 10 assistant coaches with ECHL experience and 16 of the teams had a coach that ECHL background.
The ECHL accounted for 355 of the 450 roster additions involving players from the four professional minor leagues in North America. The 28 teams in the ECHL provided 219 of the 267 players listed by the AHL as being added to rosters in 2004-05, the remaining 48 players coming from the remaining 39 minor professional teams.
Reading and Wheeling led the ECHL with 31 AHL roster additions each followed by Trenton (29), Charlotte (26), Peoria (25) and Texas (22). Every team in the league had an AHL roster addition and 17 teams had more than 10. Reading had the most players involved in AHL transactions with 19 followed by Trenton (17), Peoria (15), Wheeling (15), Johnstown (13), Dayton (12), Pensacola (12), Texas (12) and Charlotte (11).
During the regular season in 2003-04, the ECHL had more AHL roster additions (425) and players involved in AHL roster additions (234) than the combined totals of all other minor professional leagues. The ECHL had 450 AHL roster additions in 2002-03, exceeding the combined total of the other minor professional leagues, and the most since 1999-2000 when the league had a record 453 roster additions to the 19 teams in the AHL and the 13 teams of the International Hockey League.
For the 16th consecutive season, an ECHL player will be a member of the AHL champion in 2005. The 2004 champion Milwaukee had eight players, including Most Valuable Player Wade Flaherty, and head coach Claude Noel as well as radio announcer Kyle Schultz. Noel, who was named ECHL Coach of the Year in 2002-03, was named outstanding coach of the AHL after his first season in 2003-04. Noel was the fourth ECHL coach in a row and the fifth ever to be named outstanding coach in the AHL, but the first to win the coach of the year award in both the ECHL and the AHL.
Former Charlotte goaltender Jason LaBarbera was named as the AHL MVP in 2003-04, becoming the fourth ECHL player to earn the honor. In addition to LaBarbera, former ECHL players named MVP of the AHL are Eric Boguniecki in 2001-02, Martin Brochu in 1999-2000 and Brad Smyth in 1995-96.