Watson, Ralph to coach ECHL All-Stars

The ECHL on Wednesday announced that the coaches for the 2017 CCM / ECHL All-Star Classic presented by I LOVE NY will be Dan Watson of the Toledo Walleye and Brad Ralph of the Florida Everblades.

The 2017 CCM / ECHL All-Star Classic presented by I LOVE NY will feature the host Adirondack Thunder taking on the ECHL All-Stars in a non-traditional format featuring 5-on-5, 4-on-4, and 3-on-3 play, as well as a Skills Competition (Puck Relay, Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater) to highlight the talents of both teams. The game will air LIVE exclusively on NHL Network on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, at 8 p.m. ET from the Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, N.Y.

Watson will serve as head coach for the game by virtue of the Walleye having the ECHL’s top winning percentage through games of Dec. 30, 2016. Ralph is the assistant coach for the game by virtue of the Everblades having the top winning percentage in the opposite conference through games of Dec. 30, 2016.

Toledo is 24-5-1, and leads the Central Division with 49 points while Florida is 20-7-3 for 43 points to lead the South Division.

It is the first All-Star coaching appearance for both Watson and Ralph. The record for All-Star appearances is three by Chris Cichocki, Glen Gulutzan, Davis Payne and Jeff Pyle.

Twelve coaches from the ECHL All-Star Game have gone on to coach in the National Hockey League while 64 players from the contest have gone on to play in the NHL, including 48 since 2002 when the lineups began having players who coaches felt were prospects to move up to a higher level.

The 10th class will be inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Jan. 18, during a luncheon ceremony presented by BFL CANADA and Sutton Special Risk at the Fort William Henry Hotel in Lake George, N.Y., the official host hotel of the 2017 ECHL All-Star Classic.

The ECHL All-Star Fan Fest, with player appearances, interactive game, prizes, giveaways, auctions, memorabilia, and a special Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit, will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 17 starting at 6 p.m. at the Fort William Henry Resort in Lake George, N.Y. On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the day's events include the ECHL Hall of Fame Luncheon and the 2017 CCM / ECHL All-Star Classic presented by I LOVE NY. Select ECHL Skills competitions will be held the same night and will be incorporated into the evening's events.

Dan Watson, Toledo Walleye

Dan Watson was named the third head coach in Toledo Walleye history on June 29, 2016, replacing Derek Lalonde, who stepped down after two seasons in Toledo to take the head coaching job with the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild.

For the past seven seasons, Watson has served as assistant coach and associate head coach for Toledo. Over that time, Watson helped guide the Walleye to four playoff appearances (2010, 2013, 2015, 2016), a Brabham Cup championship (2014-15) and the best Eastern Conference regular season record in back-to-back seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16). He also served 21 games as interim head coach to close out the 2013-14 season, finishing with a 5-13-3 record.

Watson played three seasons with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, being named the 1998-99 Scholastic Player of the Year at Sarnia and the 1999-00 Defensive Player of the Year, and playing in the 1998-99 OHL All-Star Game. Following his junior career, Watson played seven professional seasons in the AHL, UHL, and ECHL, with 447 games played, 89 points (23g-66a) and 394 penalty minutes. He was captain of Long Beach of the ECHL from 2004-06.

Brad Ralph, Florida Everblades

Brad Ralph was named the fifth head coach in Everblades’ history on July 12, 2016. Ralph, 35, brings six seasons of head coaching experience to the Everblades. Ralph has amassed a career coaching record of 251-128-31.

Last year, Ralph guided the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League to a 48-20-4 record and a third-round appearance in the playoffs. Ralph coached the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL for three seasons (2012-15) totaling a 132-64-20 mark along with three postseason appearances. Ralph began his coaching career with the SPHL’s Augusta RiverHawks (2010-12), and led his team to the league finals in his year.

As a player, Ralph appeared in 383 professional games split between the ECHL and AHL, while making his lone NHL appearance with the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2000-01 season.

About the ECHLBegan in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province for its 29th season in 2016-17. There have been who have started their career in the ECHL who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League, including 12 who have made their NHL debuts in the 2016-17 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 NHL teams in 2016-17, marking the 20th consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Twitter and Facebook.