NEW YORK – The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association has announced that former ECHL players Alexandre Burrows, B.J. Crombeen, George Parros, Mark Streit and former ECHL executive Claude Lemieux are among the nominees for the 2009 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” The award was presented by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to honor the late Bill Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited those qualities. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968, as a result of an on-ice injury.
Former ECHL player and current Calgary Flames director of goaltender development Jamie McLennan won the award in 1997-98.
Crombeen helped Idaho win the Kelly Cup in 2007 with 10 points (5g-5a) and 45 penalty minutes in 22 postseason games. He had 11 points (7g-4a) and 43 penalty minutes in 13 regular season games for Idaho after returning from Finland where he had 22 points (13g-9a) and 152 penalty minutes in 55 games for Assat. Selected in the second round (54th overall) by Dallas in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, he had eight points and five penalty minutes in eight games with Idaho as a rookie in 2005-06 while also playing in the American Hockey League where he had 12 points (5g-7a) and 97 penalty minutes in 52 regular season games and one goal and nine penalty minutes in five playoff games for Iowa. Crombeen is one of only a handful of players in the NHL who have diabetes. While his Blues teammates are working on their sticks or skates between periods, Crombeen is adjusting his blood-sugar level, often giving himself an insulin shot to assure he has enough energy when he returns to the ice. A 23-year-old rookie, Crombeen had one goal before being claimed off waivers from Dallas this season. In 61 games with the Blues, he has scored nine goals, including a hat-trick. Crombeen brings toughness — engaging in 12 fights in his 61 games with the Blues — and he’s a member of the checking-line that has been instrumental in the club’s success this season.
Streit played in the ECHL as a rookie in 1999-2000 and had five assists and 16 penalty minutes in 14 games with Tallahassee before being called up to the AHL where he had 15 points (3g-12a) and 18 penalty minutes in 43 regular season games and two penalty minutes in two playoff games with Springfield. Undrafted until Montreal selected him as a 26-year-old in the eighth round of the 2004 Entry Draft, the Swiss-born Streit’s dream of being an every-night NHL defenseman was only just beginning when he broke into the League by playing 48 games for the Canadiens in 2005-06. Despite exhibiting superior skill at running the point of the power play, Streit was slotted as a swingman at even strength and switched from defense to forward quite often. Upon signing with the Islanders last summer, Streit found a place where he would be relied upon to be a top-four defenseman while donning an alternate captain’s “A.” He has responded by ranking among the NHL’s top five defensemen in goals, assists, points and power-play goals while logging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game.
Burrows began his professional career in the ECHL in 2002-03 when he had 26 points (9g-17a) and 201 penalty minutes in 53 games with Greenville and six points (4g-2a) and 64 penalty minutes in 13 games with Baton Rouge. He returned to the ECHL in 2003-04 registered career bests with 29 goals, 44 assists and 73 points in 64 regular season games and had two goals and 28 penalty minutes in four Kelly Cup Playoff games with Columbia while also playing in two games with Manitoba of the American Hockey League. He was selected to the ECHL All-Star Game and had an assist in the Eastern Conference’s 7-6 win. In 2004-05 he had six points (5g-1a) in four games with Columbia before playing in the AHL with Manitoba where he had 26 points (9g-17a) and 107 penalty minutes in 72 regular season games and three assists and 37 penalty minutes in 14 playoff games. He didn’t start playing major junior hockey until he was 19 years old. Known more for his ball hockey skills, he wasn’t drafted and then was among the first cuts at two separate NHL training camps. But Burrows never gave up on his dream to play in the NHL. Burrows has become one of the leaders of a surprising Vancouver Canucks team. Without playing on the power play, he is the team’s second leading goal scorer (27). No one in the NHL has more goals without scoring on the power play.
Parros is one of 14 former players who have their name engraved on the Stanley Cup: Aaron Downey (Detroit – 2008), Francois Beauchemin and George Parros (Anaheim – 2007), Andrew Hutchinson and Chad LaRose (Carolina – 2006), Ruslan Fedotenko, Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy (Tampa Bay – 2004), Corey Schwab (New Jersey – 2003), Manny Legace (Detroit – 2002), David Aebischer and Nolan Pratt (Colorado – 2001), Krzysztof Oliwa (New Jersey – 2000) and Kevin Dean (New Jersey – 1995). Pratt is the only former ECHL player to have his name engraved twice on the Stanley Cup. Parros had nine penalty minutes in three games with Reading in 2004-05 before being recalled to Manchester of the AHL where he had 247 penalty minutes and 22 points (14g-8a) in 67 regular season games and two points (1g-1a) and 27 penalty minutes in six playoff games. Perhaps the NHL’s most sportsmanlike tough guy, Parros in his fourth NHL season and has cemented his reputation as a force in the community as well as on the ice. Each year Parros shears his shoulder-length hair, donates it to children’s charities and inspires others to do the same. The sale of Parros-style fake moustaches through the Ducks’ team store also benefit charity organizations. Though Parros is the Ducks’ leader — and among the league leaders — in fighting majors, he is a meticulous follower of the “code” of engagement. He has been assessed no misconduct penalties, no game misconducts and no instigator penalties this season.
Lemieux was part of the group that helped bring the ECHL to Phoenix and he was the RoadRunners team president from 2005-07. He made a successful comeback to pro hockey after five years away from the game during which most everyone assumed he had retired. The 43-year-old, four-time Stanley Cup-winner never lost the desire to play, worked hard to return to the NHL and was willing to follow a path back never before taken: He began his comeback by playing a handful of games in China. Dedicated enough to slowly climb the ladder, the 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy-winner signed a minor-league tryout contract early this season with San Jose affiliate Worcester of the AHL. He then signed a two-way contract with the Sharks in February and appeared in 16 games before injuring his jaw. It’s assumed Lemieux will be part of the San Jose postseason run when he returns to health.
There were 43 former players and 14 former coaches on 15 of the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the fourth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the sixth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
The ECHL has been represented on the last eight NHL champions and there are 14 former players who have their name engraved on the Stanley Cup: Aaron Downey (Detroit – 2008), Francois Beauchemin and George Parros (Anaheim – 2007), Andrew Hutchinson and Chad LaRose (Carolina – 2006), Ruslan Fedotenko, Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy (Tampa Bay – 2004), Corey Schwab (New Jersey – 2003), Manny Legace (Detroit – 2002), David Aebischer and Nolan Pratt (Colorado – 2001), Krzysztof Oliwa (New Jersey – 2000) and Kevin Dean (New Jersey – 1995). Pratt is the only former ECHL player to have his name engraved twice on the Stanley Cup.
There have been 407 players who have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, including a record 52 in 2008-09. Fourteen former ECHL players signed contracts totaling more than $60 million last summer while Alexandre Burrows, who played in the ECHL his first three seasons, signed a four-year extension with Vancouver reportedly worth $8 million.
The ECHL has had 215 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 96 players reach the NHL in its first 10 seasons and 215 in the first 15 years. There have been 151 ECHL players who have played their first game in the last four seasons for an average of more than 37 per year.
There were eight players who played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2008-09 with goaltenders Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Elmira, Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Wes O’Neill (Johnstown and Colorado), Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado) and Kevin Quick (Augusta, Elmira and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders).
The ECHL was represented in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game by Mark Streit of the New York Islanders and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins while former ECHL players Dan Ellis, Jonathan Quick and Tomas Vokoun have all been selected as recipients of the NHL’s “Three Stars” award this season.
The first ECHL player to play in the NHL was Johnstown Chiefs goaltender and current New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon, who played his first game with the Quebec Nordiques against Buffalo on Jan. 30, 1990. The 100th player honor is shared by Jean Sebastien Aubin and Manny Legace, who both made their debut on Oct. 21, 1998 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Los Angeles Kings, respectively. The 200th player was Brett McLean with the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 10, 2002 and the 300th was David Liffiton with the New York Rangers on Apr. 11, 2006.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the NHL, marking the 12th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams. Seventy-two former ECHL players were on NHL opening-day rosters this season and 333 ECHL players attended 2008 NHL training camps, including 139 who played in the league in 2007-08.
Former ECHL coaches who are head coaches in the NHL are Gordon and Boudreau while Bylsma is the interim head coach for Pittsburgh. Boudreau, who coached Mississippi for three seasons and won the Kelly Cup in 1999, was named NHL Coach of the Year in 2007-08 becoming the first former ECHL coach to receive the award. Peter Laviolette, who began his coaching career with the Wheeling Nailers, led Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006. There were 18 assistant coaches in the NHL in 2008-09 who were players or coaches in the ECHL.
Record 52 former ECHL players have made their NHL debut this season: former Idaho Steelheads right wing Jay Beagle (Washington on Feb. 11), former Wheeling Nailers and ECHL All-Star defenseman Paul Bissonnette (Pittsburgh on Oct. 4), former Stockton Thunder and ECHL All-Star right wing Troy Bodie (Anaheim on Jan. 16), former Bakersfield Condors center Alexandre Bolduc (Vancouver on Nov. 27), former Florida Everblades defenseman Brett Carson (Carolina on Dec. 7), former Idaho Steelheads goaltender Matt Climie (Dallas on Apr.4), former South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Sean Collins (Washington on Dec. 6), former Las Vegas Wranglers and Wheeling Nailers goaltender John Curry (Pittsburgh on Nov. 26), former Greenville Grrrowl goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (Edmonton on Oct. 17), former Johnstown Chiefs center Andre Deveaux (Toronto on Nov. 27), former Dayton Bombers center Philippe Dupuis (Colorado on Dec. 12), former Gwinnett Gladiators left wing Chris Durno (Colorado on Jan. 18), former Gwinnett Gladiators right wing Pat Dwyer (Carolina on Nov. 2), former South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Jamie Fraser (New York Islanders on Apr. 4), former Columbus Cottonmouths and Tallahassee Tiger Sharks left wing Mitch Fritz (New York Islanders on Oct. 30), former South Carolina Stingrays right wing Andrew Gordon (Washington on Dec. 23), former Augusta Lynx and Mississippi Sea Wolves goaltender Riku Helenius (Tampa Bay on Jan. 30), former Charlotte Checkers center Dwight Helminen (Carolina on Oct. 28), former Florida Everblades and ECHL All-Star center Matt Hendricks (Colorado on Mar. 10), former Las Vegas Wranglers goaltender Brent Krahn (Dallas on Feb. 14), former Trenton Devils right wing Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (New Jersey on Oct. 22), former Baton Rouge Kingfish left wing Per Ledin (Colorado on Apr. 9), former Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Scott Lehman (Atlanta on Dec. 18), former Johnstown Chiefs defenseman Raymond Macias (Colorado on Apr. 1), former Utah Grizzlies defenseman Andrew MacDonald (New York Islanders on Feb. 28), former Charlotte Checkers defenseman Steve MacIntyre (Edmonton on Oct. 15), former Florida Everblades left wing Kenndal McArdle (Florida on Dec. 2), two-time All-Star and former Las Vegas Wranglers goaltender Mike McKenna (Tampa Bay on Feb. 3), former All-Star and Wheeling Nailers center Kurtis McLean (New York Islanders on Jan. 19), former Charlotte Checkers goaltender Al Montoya (Phoenix on Apr. 1), former South Carolina Stingrays and ECHL All-Star goaltender Michal Neuvirth (Washington on Feb. 14), former Johnstown Chiefs defenseman Wes O’Neill (Toronto on Mar. 9), former Columbia Inferno defenseman Phil Oreskovic (Toronto on Mar. 9), former Phoenix RoadRunners and Wheeling Nailers center Cam Paddock (St. Louis on Nov. 14), former Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Adam Pardy (Calgary on Oct. 9), former Idaho Steelheads left wing Warren Peters (Calgary on Dec. 7), former Charlotte Checkers center Jakub Petruzalek (Carolina on Feb. 5), former Charlotte Checkers defenseman Corey Potter (New York Rangers on Dec. 7), former Augusta Lynx defenseman Kevin Quick (Tampa Bay on Jan. 13), former Utah Grizzlies right wing Joel Rechlicz (New York Islanders on Mar. 4), former Charlotte Checkers, Columbia Inferno and Elmira Jackals defenseman Bryan Rodney (Carolina on Dec. 11), former Gwinnett Gladiators center Jared Ross (Philadelphia on Oct. 11), former Alaska Aces goaltender Marek Schwarz (St. Louis on Oct. 25), former Greenville Grrrowl and Stockton Thunder center Tim Sestito (Edmonton on Nov. 26), former Augusta Lynx defenseman Brett Skinner (New York Islanders on Oct. 27), former Dayton Bombers and Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Tyler Sloan (Washington on Oct. 21), former Utah Grizzlies and ECHL All-Star center Trevor Smith (New York Islanders on Dec. 31), former Johnstown Chiefs and Mississippi Sea Wolves forward Radek Smolenak (Tampa Bay on Dec. 2), former Las Vegas Wranglers and ECHL All-Star defenseman Tyson Strachan (St. Louis on Dec. 18), former Phoenix RoadRunners goaltender Josh Tordjman (Phoenix on Mar. 8), former Wheeling Nailers right wing Tim Wallace (Pittsburgh on Dec. 10) and former Idaho Steelheads center Tom Wandell (Dallas on Dec. 10).
Eight players have played in the ECHL and the NHL in 2008-09: goaltenders Matt Climie (Idaho and Dallas), Riku Helenius (Mississippi and Tampa Bay), Michal Neuvirth (South Carolina and Washington) and Marek Schwarz (Alaska and St. Louis), defensemen Raymond Macias (Johnstown and Colorado), Wes O’Neill and Kevin Quick (Augusta and Tampa Bay) and right wing Joel Rechlicz (Utah and New York Islanders).
There are 18 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2008-09 with referees David Banfield, Chris Ciamaga, Ghislain Hebert, Marc Joannette, Mike Leggo, Wes McCauley, Dean Morton, Dan O’Rourke, Brian Pochmara, Kevin Pollock, Kyle Rehman, Chris Rooney, Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh and linesmen Steve Barton, Brian Mach, Tim Nowak and Jay Sharrers. Barton, Joannette, Leggo, McCauley, Nowak, Pollock, Rooney and Sharrers all worked the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Former ECHL broadcasters working in the National Hockey League include John Ahlers and Steve Carroll of the Anaheim Ducks, Tom Callahan of the Nashville Predators, Dave Goucher of the Boston Bruins, Chris Kerber of the St. Louis Blues, Dave Mishkin of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Rob Simpson, who is a producer/host for The NHL Network.
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 and Kelly Murray are now with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, respectively, while former ECHL director of communications Jason Rothwell is the creative director for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch Games Live on B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider” of the ECHL.
• Watch ECHL Games Around The Clock On ECHL TV on B2CableTV.com.
• The ECHL celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 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 21 teams playing in 16 states and British Columbia in 2008-09.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• ECHL has affiliations with 23 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 19 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• In the last six 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.