Stockton’s Benton Receives
Media Relations Award Of Excellence

PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL announced that Mike Benton of the Stockton Thunder is the 2008-09 recipient of the Award of Excellence for Media Relations as determined in voting by members of the media, league media relations directors and broadcasters.

Benton has been the director of media relations and the play-by-play broadcaster for the Thunder and the Lightning of af2 for four seasons. He was selected to broadcast the ECHL All-Star Game in 2007 and 2008. Benton worked as a broadcaster for the University of California Riverside women’s basketball and in minor league baseball for the Dayton Dragons and the High Desert Mavericks. As an undergraduate at Azusa Pacific University, he did play-by-play for both basketball and football while also serving as a correspondent for “Valley Sports2” aired in the Los Angeles area on ESPN2.

Media Relations Award Of Excellence Winners

Year Recipient Team
2008-09 Mike Benton Stockton Thunder
2007-08 John Hamel Cincinnati Cyclones (American Conference)
Jeff Harris and Mike Walker Victoria Salmon Kings (National Conference)
2006-07 Dustin Bixby Gwinnett Gladiators (American Conference)
Josh Fisher Las Vegas Wranglers (National Conference)
2005-06 Jeremy Zager San Diego Gulls
2004-05 Jeremy Zager San Diego Gulls
2003-04 Mike Kelly Mississippi Sea Wolves
2002-03 Ryan Stanzel Louisiana IceGators
2001-02 Bill McLaughlin Greenville Grrrowl
2000-01 Darren Abbott South Carolina Stingrays
99-2000 Darren Abbott South Carolina Stingrays
1998-99 Mark Simpson Charlotte Checkers
1997-98 Andy Davis Richmond Renegades
1996-97 Peter Kostos Louisiana IceGators

Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts• 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 20 teams in 15 states and British Columbia in 2009-10.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• ECHL had affiliations with 24 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2008-09 marking the 12th consecutive year for affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL.
407 former ECHL players have played in NHL.
• 151 former ECHL players have played their first NHL game in the last four seasons.
• Record 52 former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2008-09 and eight players played in both the ECHL and the NHL: 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).
• There were 72 former ECHL players on NHL opening-day rosters.
• ECHL has been represented on last nine Stanley Cup champions including 2009 with Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, player Ruslan Fedotenko, equipment managers Dana Heinze and Dave Zeigler, athletic trainers Chris Stewart and Scott Adams and scout Derek Clancey.
• Former ECHL coaches working as head coaches in the NHL are Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals and Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders while former ECHL player Dan Bylsma is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. 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. Peter Laviolette, who began his coaching career with the Wheeling Nailers, led Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
• There are 15 assistant coaches in the NHL who were players or coaches in the ECHL.
• Eighteen former ECHL officials worked in the NHL 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.
• ECHL has affiliations with 23 of the 29 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 20 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 2,500 call-ups involving more than 1,300 players since 2002-03.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at