PRINCETON, N.J. – Former Alaska Aces goaltender Marek Schwarz became the 362nd player to play in the National Hockey League after playing in the ECHL when he played the final 15:27 and made five saves in a 4-0 win against Florida on Saturday.
The 22 year old was recalled from Peoria of the American Hockey League on Saturday after St. Louis starter and former ECHL goaltender Manny Legace strained a hip flexor against Los Angeles on Friday and regular backup Chris Mason had an appendectomy on Oct. 16.
Selected in the first round (17th overall) by St. Louis in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Schwarz played for Alaska in 2007-08 going 6-0-0 with a goals-against average of 2.08 and a save percentage of .924 in six regular season games and 5-2 with a goals-against average of 3.21 and a save percentage of .911 in eight Kelly Cup Playoff games. He also played in the AHL for Peoria and was 14-14-2 with a goals-against average of 2.79 and a save percentage of .891 and in the NHL where he appeared in two games for the Blues.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, the ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the NHL, marking the 12th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
There have been 106 former ECHL players who have gone on to play in the NHL in the last four seasons, including a record 47 in 2005-06. Seventy-two former ECHL players were on NHL opening-day rosters and there were 333 former ECHL players who attended NHL training camps, including 139 who played in the league last season.
Former ECHL coaches working as head coaches in the NHL are Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals, Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders and Peter Laviolette of the Carolina Hurricanes. 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. Laviolette, who began his coaching career with the Wheeling Nailers, led Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006. There are 18 assistant coaches in the NHL who were players or coaches in the ECHL.
There have been seven former ECHL players who have played their first NHL game this season: former Wheeling Nailers and ECHL All-Star Defenseman Paul Bissonnette on Oct. 4 with Pittsburgh, former Charlotte Checkers defenseman Steve MacIntyre on Oct. 15 with Edmonton, former Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Adam Pardy on Oct. 9 with Calgary, former Gwinnett Gladiators center Jared Ross on Oct. 11 with Philadelphia, former Dayton Bombers and Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Tyler Sloan on Oct. 21 with Washington and former Alaska Aces goaltender Marek Schwarz on Oct. 25 with St. Louis.
The ECHL is represented for the eighth consecutive year on the National Hockey League championship team in 2008 by Aaron Downey of the Detroit Red Wings.
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.
Watch games live on B2 Networks, the “Official Broadband Broadcast Provider” of the ECHL.
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 23 teams playing 828 games in 16 states and British Columbia in 2008-09.
The Reading Royals, the City of Reading and the Sovereign Center will host the 17th Annual ECHL All-Star Game on Jan. 21, 2009 and the 12th Annual All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 20, 2009.
The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
The ECHL has affiliations with 25 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League in 2008-09 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 2,300 call ups involving more than 1,200 players. In each of the last three seasons there have been more than 225 players who have played in both the ECHL and the AHL in the same season.
Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.