Kalamazoo Wings defenseman Sam Ftorek will play his 700th ECHL game on Friday against Toledo, becoming just third player in the League’s 26-year history to reach the 700-game plateau. Ftorek ranks behind 2010 ECHL Hall of Fame inductee Cam Brown (789) and Louis Dumont (771) on the ECHL all-time games played list.
In his 13th season in the ECHL, Ftorek is tied for 26th in League history with 294 assists and is 35th with 466 points. Ftorek is in his fifth season with Kalamazoo, where he has posted 189 points (55g-134a) in 269 games with the K-Wings.
Twice in his ECHL career, 2000-01 with Mobile and 2002-03 with Greensboro, Ftorek appeared in all 72 games in a season. He has also played in 71 games with Kalamazoo in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
The son of former NHL player and coach Robbie Ftorek, he has scored 40 or more points six times in his ECHL career, and he enjoyed his best offensive season with Greensboro in 2002-03 when he tallied a team-leading 33 goals and was second on the club with 61 points.
The 38-year-old began his professional career in the ECHL with Augusta in 1998-99 scoring 29 points (11g-18a) in 62 games. He has also appeared in ECHL games with Gwinnett (2004-05), Fresno (2004-05) and Cincinnati (2006-07).
Over the course of his ECHL career, Ftorek has also seen action in 80 games during the Kelly Cup Playoffs, which is tied for eighth on the League’s all-time postseason games played list. He advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals with Kalamazoo in 2011, when he registered 21 points (7g-14a) in 19 postseason contests.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America One Sports, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrated 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 22 teams in 15 states in 2013-14.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• 520 players have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL including 22 in 2012-13.
• Eight ECHL players have made their NHL debuts in 2013-14: former Reading Royals forward Will Acton (Edmonton on Oct. 1), former Kalamazoo Wings left wing Darren Archibald (Vancouver on Oct. 25), former San Francisco Bulls left wing Jamie Devane (Toronto on Oct. 5), former Idaho Steelheads left wing Luke Gazdic (Edmonton on Oct. 1), former Toledo Walleye center Luke Glendening (Detroit on Oct. 12), former Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Magnus Hellberg (Nashville on Oct. 26),former Greenville Road Warriors goaltender Cam Talbot (New York Rangers on Oct. 24) and former Ontario Reign goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (Pittsburgh on Oct. 11).
• The ECHL has had 328 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.
• 264 ECHL players have played their first game in the last nine seasons for an average of more than 29 per year.
• ECHL had a record 93 players on NHL opening-day rosters in 2013-14, surpassing the 87 from 2012-13 and marking the 11th year in a row that there have been over 50 former ECHL players on opening-day rosters.
• ECHL has affiliations with 28 of the 30 NHL teams in 2013-14, marking the 17th consecutive season that the league has affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
• 29 coaches with an ECHL background are working behind the benches of teams in the NHL including Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and 2011 Jack Adams Award winner Dan Bylsma, New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano and Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel. It is the ninth 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.
• 27 former ECHL officials are scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2013-14 with referees Darcy Burchell, Francis Charron, Tom Chmielewski, 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.
• ECHL was represented for the 13th year in a row on the Stanley Cup champion in 2013 with Chicago Blackhaws assistant coach Jamie Kompon, players Sheldon Brookbank and Daniel Carcillo, vice president/assistant to the president Al MacIsaac, director of pro scouting Ryan Stewart and general manager of minor league affiliations Mark Bernard. The ECHL was represented by 53 former players and 18 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the eighth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the 10th consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
• Former ECHL broadcasters working in the NHL include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, 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.
• In the last nine seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined 4,000 with over call-ups involving more than 2,100 players and in 2012-13 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• The ECHL averaged 4,695 fans per game in 2012-13, the highest single-season average since 1999-2000, and marking the ninth consecutive season and the 21st time in the last 23 years that the ECHL has averaged over 4,000 fans.