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AHL names winners of 2016-17 excellence awards

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews has announced that the league has named the 2016-17 recipients of several awards for excellence and service to the AHL.

The winners were recognized Wednesday evening at a gala reception during the Board of Governors’ Annual Meeting at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms owners Jim Brooks and Rob Brooks have been selected as the winners of the James C. Hendy Memorial Award, given to the outstanding executive in the American Hockey League for 2016-17.

Owners of the Phantoms franchise since 2009, the Brooks brothers oversee one of the AHL’s most successful operations, as their club has played to crowds averaging more than 96 percent capacity since arriving at the state-of-the-art PPL Center in Allentown, Pa., three years ago. In 2016-17, the Brookses continued to show their commitment to strengthening the local community by hosting an extremely successful and memorable AHL All-Star Classic, while also pushing the Phantoms to be leaders in all facets of business practices among their AHL peers.

The James C. Hendy Memorial Award is named for the late Jim Hendy, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and AHL Hall of Fame and long-time statistician and historian for the AHL who won four Calder Cups as general manager of the Cleveland Barons.

Craig Heisinger, senior vice president and director of hockey operations/assistant general manager of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, was honored with the Thomas Ebright Award in recognition of career contributions to the AHL.

Heisinger has provided tremendous leadership within the American Hockey League since the Manitoba Moose joined the AHL in 2001, including the last 15 seasons serving as general manager of Manitoba (2002-11, 2015- ) and the St. John’s IceCaps (2011-15). Heisinger, whose time with the Moose organization began in 1996 when he was hired as the team’s equipment manager, has overseen two Calder Cup finalists (2009, 2014) and has served on the league’s Competition Committee (including one season as chairman) and Player Development Committee. He is also a former recipient of the James C. Hendy Award as executive of the year (2009).

The Thomas Ebright Award honors Tom Ebright, the former owner and governor of the Baltimore Skipjacks and Portland Pirates who passed away in 1997.

Marc Lira, the director of business operations for the Toronto Marlies, is the winner of the Ken McKenzie Award, which recognizes the important role played by team management in building a successful franchise by honoring the AHL team executive who most successfully promotes his or her own club.

Lira, who joined Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in 2009, has had an immeasurable impact on his Marlies sales team, which saw significant revenue growth in season tickets and group sales this season. His dedication and passion towards growing AHL hockey in Toronto has helped foster a culture of personal and professional development within the organization, and many members of his sales staff have gone on to leadership roles within MLSE with the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC.

The Ken McKenzie Award, first presented in 1978, honors Ken McKenzie, the founder and long-time publisher of The Hockey News and a 1997 media honoree by the Hockey Hall of Fame as the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award winner.

The San Diego Gulls were named the 2016-17 winners of the President’s Award as the AHL team of the year.

Following up an impressive inaugural season, the Gulls continued to excel in year two, ranking third in the league in attendance during the regular season (8,876 avg.) while experiencing an increase of 2.3 percent over 2015-16. The organization also placed among the league sales leaders in several categories, including ticket and corporate partnership revenues, and has made a strong and positive impact in the San Diego community. On the ice, the Gulls reached the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season, and proudly developed many players who helped the Anaheim Ducks advance all the way to the NHL’s Western Conference final.

Established in 2009, the President’s Awards are given to an AHL organization and/or player for overall excellence in the past year.

Veteran linesman Kevin Hastings has been named the 2016-17 recipient of the Michael Condon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions by an on-ice official.

A member of the league’s officiating staff in southern Ontario since 2002, Hastings provides veteran leadership, an unmatched work ethic and mentorship to younger officials as they join the professional ranks. During his 15 seasons, Hastings has earned the respect of not just his fellow officials but of coaches and players as well, and has been selected to work four conference finals along with the 2003 Calder Cup Finals.

The Michael Condon Memorial Award was created in 2002 following the sudden passing of veteran AHL linesman Mike Condon.

The American Hockey League also honored the Professional Hockey Players’ Association on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, and presented a custom framed print to former St. John’s IceCaps chief operating officer Glenn Stanford in recognition of his 25 years of service to the league.

In operation since 1936, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers.