PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Columbia Inferno left wing Alex Foster became the 351st player to play in the National Hockey League after playing in the ECHL when he made his debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 3-1 win against the New York Islanders.
Foster is the 22nd former ECHL player to play his first NHL game this year and the 206th to make his debut in the past seven seasons, including 26 in 2006-07. Chris Beckford-Tseu (Alaska and St. Louis), Joe Jensen (Wheeling and Carolina) and Jonathan Quick (Reading and Los Angeles) have all played in the ECHL and the NHL this year.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the NHL, marking the 11th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams.
The 23-year-old Foster had 11 points (1g-10a) and six penalty minutes in nine games with Columbia as a rookie in 2006-07 before being called up to the American Hockey League where he had 17 points (8g-9a) and 31 penalty minutes in 57 games for Toronto.
Twenty-six former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2006-07, including two who played in both the ECHL and the NHL as goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji played for Reading and Los Angeles while defenseman Bryan Young skated for Stockton and Edmonton. Dave McKee played for Augusta and dressed for five games as the backup goaltender for Stanley Cup champion Anaheim.
There are 15 coaches in the NHL who have ECHL experience including former Wheeling coach Peter Laviolette, who is head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, and former Mississippi coach Bruce Boudreau, who is head coach of the Washington Capitals.
The ECHL is represented for the seventh consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2007 with Anaheim assistant coach Dave Farrish, players Francois Beauchemin and George Parros and broadcasters John Ahlers and Steve Carroll.
Former ECHL players that have played their first NHL game in 2007-08 are: former Peoria Rivermen and Alaska Aces goaltender Chris Beckford-Tseu (St. Louis on Feb. 21), former Florida Everblades center David Brine (Florida on Feb. 2), former Idaho Steelheads right wing B.J. Crombeen (Dallas on Jan. 19), former Gwinnett Gladiators left wing Kevin Doell (Atlanta on Jan. 4), former Alaska defenseman Zack FitzGerald (Vancouver on Feb. 5), former Columbia left wing Alex Foster (Toronto on Mar. 18), former Fresno goaltender Thomas Greiss (San Jose on Jan. 14), former Roanoke Express and Wheeling Nailers left wing Jason Jaffray (Vancouver on Dec. 12), former Wheeling Nailers left wing Joe Jensen (Carolina on Feb. 18), former Toledo Storm goaltender Drew MacIntyre (Vancouver on Dec. 13), former San Diego Gulls left wing Cody McLeod (Colorado on Dec. 19), former Alaska Aces and Pensacola Ice Pilots center Chris Minard (Pittsburgh on Jan. 21), former Columbia Inferno center Brandon Nolan (Carolina on Dec. 22), former Johnstown Chiefs and Fresno Falcons goaltender Dmitri Patzold (San Jose on Oct. 7), former Gwinnett Gladiators and Louisiana IceGators left wing Pascal Pelletier (Boston on Jan. 17), former Reading Royals goaltender Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles on Dec. 6), former Stockton Thunder left wing Liam Reddox (Edmonton on Dec. 7), former Gwinnett Gladiators left wing Colin Stuart (Atlanta on Dec. 29), former Columbus Chill, Richmond Renegades and Trenton Titans left wing Pete Vandermeer (Phoenix on Feb. 10), former San Diego goaltender Tyler Weiman (Colorado on Oct. 4), former Charlotte Checkers right wing Craig Weller (Phoenix on Oct. 4) and former Phoenix RoadRunners center Daniel Winnik (Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 4).
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08, the ECHL is the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League and 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 25 teams playing 900 games in 17 states and British Columbia in 2007-08.
The league officially changed its name to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 and for the past 17 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup champion.
In each of the last two seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL and there were over 800 call-ups involving more than 500 players.
In the last five seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 2,000 call-ups involving more than 1,000 players since 2002-03.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.