One of the benefits of running IceMenManiacs.com and doing freelance writing for ProHockeyNews.com and JacketsCannon.com is that I occasionally gain access to information that isn’t necessarily made available to the general public. Of course, it helps that IceMen broadcaster Derick Benigni also happens to be my “IceMen Insights” co-host.
This past fall, Derick was given a few copies of the ECHL’s Official Guide and Record Book for the 2013-14 season – one for his own reference, and extra copies to distribute to local media members as he saw fit. He was kind enough to set aside one copy for yours truly.
The book is massive – 432 pages of league history, team profiles, award winners, team and individual records, year-by-year standings and post-season results, general information, stats, stats, and more stats. Frankly, it’s a lot to take in, even for a lifelong hockey buff and admitted stats geek like myself.
But for you, dear Maniacs, I managed to comb through the whole thing, cover to cover. I didn’t read every word and number, but I did jot down a bunch of highlights as I thoroughly browsed.
Amidst all of the minutiae were quite a few genuinely interesting factoids and pieces of trivia, which I will now share with you so you can impress friends and family at your next hockey-themed party.
Keep in mind, all stats and records are from the ECHL’s inaugural season (1988-89) through its 25th anniversary season (2012-13), so anything that has happened during the current season is not included…
• BLIZZARD BLOWOUTS: During the 1993-94 season, the expansion Huntington Blizzard were on the wrong end of some dubious ECHL records. On Oct. 27, the Blizzard lost 15-0 to the Greensboro Monarchs, setting new ECHL records for largest margin of defeat and most lopsided shutout loss. A few months later on Jan. 30, the Blizzard lost 16-3 to the Nashville Knights – and Nashville’s 16 goals still stand as the most by a single team in any ECHL game.
• BONUS HOCKEY: Three ECHL post-season games have gone into 4 overtimes, with 11 others ending in the 3rd overtime. (Interestingly, the 14 games occurred in 14 different cities.) The longest game in league history clocked in at 126:10 of actual game time, when the visiting Elmira Jackals beat the Trenton Devils 5-4 with a goal 6:10 into the 4th OT period. The marathon contest, which started at 7:01 PM local time and ended just 4 minutes before midnight on Apr. 10, 2009, featured a total of 145 shots on goal. Jackals goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak truly earned the victory, stopping 71 of 75 Trenton shots. (Side Note: Only one of the 14 super-long games happened in the Cup Finals, and it was actually the first triple-overtime game in ECHL history. Hampton Roads beat host Greensboro at the 5:47 mark in the 3rd OT on Apr. 9, 1991, in Game 4 of the Best-of-7 series. Hampton Roads went on to win the series in 5 games.)
• BUSY TURNSTYLES: When the Charlotte Checkers (currently in the AHL) were still a part of the ECHL, they were the visiting team for the 3 games seen by the 3 largest crowds in ECHL history. On Jan. 15, 1994, a massive crowd of 20,911 at the famous Greensboro Coliseum watched the Checkers lose 7-1 to the host Greensboro Monarchs. Exactly one week later on Jan. 22, the Checkers visited Birmingham’s BJCC Coliseum and 15,171 fans saw the host Bulls prevail 3-1. Then just under a year after that, a throng of 16,377 in Greensboro had their fun spoiled by a 4-2 Checkers victory over the Monarchs on Jan. 7, 1995. To this day, the Checkers took part in the only 3 ECHL games to draw more than 15,000 fans – and they were the road team for all of them!
• EMPTY SIN BINS: There have been just 3 penalty-free games in ECHL history. The first occurred in early 1990 between the Erie Panthers and Johnstown Chiefs, teams that each averaged more than 30 penalty minutes per game that season. The second was a December 1999 meeting between the Florida Everblades and Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, the ECHL’s two least-penalized teams that season. The most recent was a March 2003 game between the Pee Dee Pride and Augusta Lynx. Oddly enough, that same Pee Dee team also took part in the most-penalized game of the 2002-03 season on Feb. 22, when the Pride and the Roanoke Express combined to rack up 254 penalty minutes.
• GOALIE GOALS: Just 11 ECHL goaltenders have been credited with scoring a goal, with the first happening back in 1995 when Hampton Roads’ Corwin Saurdiff successfully shot the puck into an empty net. Current Toledo Walleye coach Nick Vitucci was credited with a VERY rare goalie goal in 1996 when opposing goaltender Alain Morissette accidentally shot the puck into his own net on an attempted pass, and Vitucci was the last member of the scoring team to have touched the puck. (Some online sources claim that Vitucci is the ONLY pro goalie to ever score a goal on a guarded net, although it is unclear if that is truly the case.) Current Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith scored an ECHL goal by shooting the puck into an empty net while with Lexington in 2002, in just his third pro start. And while with the Reading Royals in 2007, current Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was credited with a goal on a Pensacola Ice Pilots own-goal, in Quick’s second pro start. Smith and Quick share an interesting related record, in that each earned his first career shutout in the same game in which he scored his first career goal.
• GOALS A-PLENTY: Scoring was certainly not lacking in the ECHL’s early years. During the league’s first 4 seasons, 3 different teams averaged nearly 6 goals per game. The Erie Panthers averaged 5.95 goals per game in 1989-90 (357 goals in 60 games), still an ECHL single-season record. Close behind in offensive output were the 1990-91 Knoxville Cherokees at 5.89 goals per game (377 goals in 64 games) and the 1991-92 Toledo Storm at 5.73 goals per game (367 goals in 64 games). For comparison’s sake, the ECHL’s top-scoring team during the 2012-13 season was Idaho at “just” 3.64 goals per game.
• IN THE BOARD ROOM: While the ECHL currently has 22 active teams, the Board of Governors actually consists of 24 people. Ezra Riber, owner of the Columbia (South Carolina) Inferno franchise that suspended operations in 2008 after 7 ECHL seasons, remains on the board while continuing to seek a new home arena for the Inferno. Meanwhile, Idaho businessman Larry Leasure still sits on the league’s board as a representative for Reno, Nevada. In 2000, Leasure purchased the franchise rights to the defunct Reno Rage organization, with the intention of relaunching the team as the Reno Raiders if a suitable home arena could be found. Though it does not appear as if either Columbia or Reno will actually hit the ice again anytime soon, both Riber and Leasure still have a voice on the ECHL Board of Governors.
• LADIES IN NET: During the 1993-94 ECHL season, two women became the first female goaltenders to win a professional hockey game. Canadian Manon Rheaume, who had already gained international fame as the first woman to play in an NHL exhibition game (with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992), won a total of 5 ECHL games with Knoxville and Nashville. American Erin Whitten, who ultimately became a 5-time silver medalist for Team USA in the IIHF World Championships, won 2 games for the Toledo Storm.
• MAKING THE SHOW: Goaltender Scott Gordon, who played 31 games with the Johnstown Chiefs during the ECHL’s inaugural season, was the first ECHL alum to play in the NHL. Gordon made his NHL debut with the Quebec Nordiques on Jan. 30, 1990. He made a total of 23 appearances with the Nordiques before finishing his playing career in the minors, including stints with the ECHL’s Nashville Knights and Knoxville Cherokees. Gordon then transitioned into coaching, and he is now an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
• NIFTY FIFTY: Only two players in ECHL history have posted three 50-goal seasons. The Louisville IceHawks’ Sheldon Gorski is the only player to have hit 50 in three straight seasons – 1990-91, 1991-92 and 1992-93. Darren Colbourne scored 50 in three non-consecutive seasons, and for three different teams – with the Dayton Bombers in 1991-92, as a member of the Richmond Renegades in 1993-94, and for the Raleigh IceCaps in 1996-97.
• NO TWO-TIMING: Through 25 seasons, the ECHL has honored 25 different players as Most Valuable Player. Perhaps the most notable is two-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time NHL All-Star Scott Gomez, who spent the 2004-05 season with the Alaska Aces in his hometown of Anchorage during that season’s NHL lockout. Gomez is one of 21 forwards to earn ECHL MVP honors. The award has gone to just three goaltenders and one defenseman – Chris Valicevic in 1998-99, after he eclipsed the 90-point plateau for the third time in his ECHL career. Valicevic was later honored as one of four members in the inaugural induction class of the ECHL Hall of Fame.
• OVERTIME SCHMOVERTIME: For 6 seasons (1995-96 through 2000-01), the ECHL did not play overtime during the regular season. Games that were tied at the end of regulation proceeded directly on to a shootout. (Not surprisingly, the ECHL record for consecutive shootout games was set under this format in 1998 when the Huntington Blizzard played 9 straight games that were decided in a shootout.) The current format (4-on-4 OT for 5 minutes followed by a shootout) has been used since the 2001-02 season.
• PLAYOFF PENALTY SHOTS: There have been 51 penalty shots awarded in ECHL playoff games, with just 3 of them (all unsuccessful) happening in the Cup Finals. Only one team has ever been awarded 2 penalty shots in the same playoff game. Utah Grizzlies goaltender Mike Morrison stopped both Las Vegas Wranglers attempts on Apr. 6, 2010. The fact that Morrison faced 2 penalty shots in that single playoff game is even more unusual because he did not even start the game. Morrison only played 26:01 that night, in relief of ineffective starter Mikko Koskinen.
• PLAYOFF SHOCKER: The Louisville IceHawks pulled off the biggest post-season upset in ECHL history in the spring of 1994, by eliminating a team that was 54 points its superior during the regular season. With 16 of the league’s 19 teams qualifying for the playoffs, Louisville made the cut despite an atrocious 16-44-8 record. The IceHawks squared off with top overall seed Knoxville (44-18-6) in the Best-of-3 first round, and stunned the Cherokees with a 2-1 series victory. Louisville was then swept by Birmingham in the next round, but the IceHawks’ opening-round shocker will probably never be surpassed as the ECHL’s most lopsided playoff upset.
• QUITE A DEFENSIVE BATTLE: Only one game in ECHL history has featured both teams scoring double-digit goals. During the 1993-94 season on Nov. 5, the Toledo Storm beat the Louisville IceHawks 11-10. That contest’s 21 lamplighters tied the ECHL record for most total goals in a single game, originally set in 1988 when the Erie Panthers beat the Carolina Thunderbirds 13-8.
• RECORDS GALORE: Manitoba native Trevor Jobe had what was likely the greatest individual season in ECHL history as a member of the Nashville Knights during the 1992-93 season, at the age of 25. Jobe set still-standing ECHL records for goals (85), points (161), hat tricks (12), fewest games needed to reach 50 goals (37), points in a single game (10), and consecutive games with a point (38). Despite his scoring prowess, Jobe never made it to the NHL – bouncing around to 31 different minor league teams over his 17-year career.
• SIX DOZEN: The ECHL has only played a 72-game regular season schedule since the 2000-01 season. The league played a 60-game schedule for its first 2 seasons, a 64-game schedule for the next 3 seasons, a 68-game schedule for its 6th season, and a 70-game schedule for 5 subsequent seasons – through the 1999-2000 campaign.
• SPREADING IT AROUND: The Johnstown Chiefs pulled off an impressive feat on Dec. 2, 1989. Against the Hampton Roads Admirals, all 14 Chiefs skaters AND the starting goaltender registered at least one point. Since then, 5 other ECHL teams have had 15 total players find the scoresheet in a single game, but never including the starting goaltender.
• THE MAGIC NUMBER: If you’re ever going to bet on the championship round of the ECHL playoffs, consider plunking your money down on the series ending in 5 games. In 25 seasons, the Best-of-7 championship series has been decided in 5 games a whopping 14 times, including the past 4 seasons. The Cup Final has ended in 6 games on 5 different occasions, with just 3 sweeps (and not since 2002) and 3 series that went the distance (most recently in 2009).
• ZEBRAS MOVIN’ ON UP: The NHL employed 26 former ECHL officials during the 2012-13 season. Among them, Wes McCauley and Chris Rooney were both selected to officiate the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. Rooney, a Boston native, also previously worked the 2010 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
If there’s a specific ECHL record or stat you’re wondering about, feel free to comment here or on the IceMen Maniacs Facebook page. I’ll be happy to see if I can find the info you seek in the record book!