AHL announces winners of excellence awards

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews has announced the 2008-09 recipients of three individual awards for excellence and service to the league. The AHL also announced the winners of its inaugural Team Business Service awards, recognizing outstanding achievements in a variety of categories including ticket sales, community service and fan experience.

The announcements came Wednesday evening at a gala reception during the league’s annual meeting of the Board of Governors at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

heisinger_200.jpgCraig Heisinger, senior vice president of True North Sports & Entertainment and general manager of the Manitoba Moose, has been named the winner of the James C. Hendy Memorial Award as the outstanding executive in the American Hockey League for 2008-09.

Thanks to Heisinger’s leadership and keen eye for talent during his eight seasons as GM, the Moose have been one of the most successful franchises in the AHL. Last season, Manitoba captured the league’s regular-season points championship and advanced to its first Calder Cup Finals.

Known and respected throughout the hockey community, Heisinger has been a fixture in Winnipeg since his days as an equipment manager for the NHL’s Jets two decades ago.

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

mill09_200.jpgFormer AHL executive vice president of hockey operations Jim Mill has been honored with the Thomas Ebright Award in recognition of career contributions to the AHL.

Mill left the league office last week after 11 seasons, during which time he managed all facets of the league’s hockey operations department including the AHL’s officiating program, disciplinary process for fines and suspensions, development and execution of the regular-season league schedule and coordination of the scheduling of playoff games with all participating teams.

Mill is now the assistant to the general manager of the Minnesota Wild and serves as GM of the Houston Aeros.

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

An AHL linesman since 2001, Al Stensland has been named the recipient of the Michael Condon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions by an on-ice official.

stensland_200.jpgStensland’s dedication and professionalism are well respected by his colleagues on the ice as he plays a major role in contributing to the development and advancement of many of today’s top AHL and NHL officials. Stensland, who is also a lieutenant with 20 years of service in the Skokie (Ill.) Fire Department, worked the Calder Cup Finals in 2002 and 2005.

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

The Manitoba Moose were named the 2008-09 winner of the President’s Award, given to an AHL organization for excellence in all areas off the ice in the past year. The Moose finished second in the AHL in regular-season attendance and led the league with an average of 10,554 spectators in the playoffs, which culminated in the franchise’s first Calder Cup Finals berth. Additionally, the Moose maintained a solid presence in the Winnipeg community and made numerous best-practices contributions to the AHL’s Team Business Services program over the course of the year.

The AHL honored one team from each conference for top revenue growth in three areas during this past season: season-ticket sales, group-ticket sales, and overall ticket sales. The season-ticket sales winners were the Toronto Marlies (Western) and the Springfield Falcons (Eastern). Winners for group-ticket sales were the San Antonio Rampage (Western) and the Lowell Devils (Eastern). And the Grand Rapids Griffins (Western) and the Providence Bruins (Eastern) earned the awards for overall ticket sales growth.

Additionally, teams from each conference were selected for excellence in the areas of community service and fan experience. The Grand Rapids Griffins (Western) and Binghamton Senators (Eastern) earned the nods for their strong community service efforts, while the Milwaukee Admirals (Western) and Hershey Bears (Eastern) were rewarded for their outstanding fan experience at home games.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 84 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the eighth year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2008-09.