PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL is represented by 11 players, including three named to the starting lineups, on the rosters for the 2011 American Hockey League All-Star Classic, scheduled for Monday, Jan. 31 in Hershey, Pa.
There are six former ECHL players on the Eastern Conference team: starting goaltender Brad Thiessen (Wheeling, 2009-10); forwards Matt Anderson (Gwinnett, 2007-08), and Andrew Gordon (South Carolina, 2007-08); defenseman Bryan Rodney (Charlotte, 2005-06; Columbia, 2006-07 and Elmira, 2007-08); and goaltenders Braden Holtby (South Carolina, 2009-10) and Martin Jones (Ontario, 2010-11).
Former ECHL assistant coach Mark French, who is head coach of the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears, will serve as head coach of the Eastern Conference team, while former ECHL player and coach Troy Mann, who is the Bears’ assistant coach, will serve the same role for the Eastern Conference.
Five former ECHL players have been named to the Western Confernce All-Stars: starting forwards David Desharnais (Cincinnati, 2007-08) and Travis Morin (South Carolina, 2006-09); defenseman Maxim Noreau (Texas, 2007-08); and goaltenders Mark Dekanich (Cincinnati, 2009-10) and Curtis Sanford (Peoria, 2000-02).
Former ECHL player and coach Jared Bednar, who is in his first season as head coach of the Peoria Rivermen, will be a co-coach for the Western Conference. Bednar is the only person to win the Kelly Cup as both a player (South Carolina, 2001) and head coach (South Carolina, 2009).
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.
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.