AHL names winners of excellence awards for 2017-18

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews has announced that the league has named the 2017-18 recipients of several awards for excellence and service to the AHL.

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

Grand Rapids Griffins president Tim Gortsema has been selected as the winner of the James C. Hendy Memorial Award, given to the outstanding executive in the American Hockey League for 2017-18.

One of the first members of the Griffins’ front office when the organization was founded in 1995, Gortsema has overseen tremendous growth since taking over as president in 2015. The Griffins drew more than 300,000 fans to Van Andel Arena for the sixth consecutive year in 2017-18 and ranked among the league leaders in all major ticket revenue categories, including partial plans, full-season plans, group sales, individual ticket sales and total ticket sales. Under Gortsema’s leadership, the organization also set a franchise record for corporate sales, and continues to be at the forefront of digital and social media practices and community relations efforts.

The James C. Hendy 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.

Wendell Young, general manager of the Chicago Wolves, was honored with the Thomas Ebright Award in recognition of career contributions to the AHL.

General manager of the Wolves since 2009, Young has overseen five division championships won with five different head coaches and four different National Hockey League affiliates, including a 2017-18 Central Division crown working with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Young’s association with the Wolves organization dates back to his seven seasons (and two IHL championships) as a goaltender from 1994-2001, and includes time as executive director of hockey operations and as assistant coach, winning a Calder Cup in 2008. Young’s playing career also saw him win the AHL’s Baz Bastien Award as outstanding goaltender in 1987-88 and capture the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the 1988 Calder Cup Playoffs with the Hershey Bears.

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

The Toronto Marlies (team of the year) and Mike McKenna of the Texas Stars (player excellence) were named the 2017-18 winners of the President’s Awards.

The Toronto Marlies had a memorable 2017-18 season both on and off the ice, highlighted by their first Calder Cup championship. The Marlies, who also captured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy with the best record during the regular season and won their fifth division title in the last seven years, owned the league’s highest increase in overall ticket sales from the previous year, and were among the league leaders in corporate sales as well. Playing in one of the largest and most crowded sports markets in North America, the Marlies organization continues to be a benchmark for the rest of the AHL in areas such as fan experience, digital and social media, community relations and broadcasting.

Goaltender Mike McKenna continued his consummate professional career into its 13th season in 2017-18, leading the Texas Stars to the Western Conference championship and making his second consecutive appearance in the Calder Cup Finals. McKenna also made two appearances with the Dallas Stars, including his first NHL start since 2015 and earning his first NHL win since 2013. The 35-year-old native of St. Louis, Mo., is the winningest U.S.-born goaltender in AHL history, currently ranked 10th overall with 223 career victories as well as tied for ninth with 27 shutouts and 11th with 461 career appearances. McKenna will be back in the crease in 2018-19, having signed with the Ottawa Senators.

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 Frank Murphy has been named the 2017-18 recipient of the Michael Condon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions by an on-ice official.

A member of the league’s officiating staff in eastern New York, Connecticut and his native Massachusetts since 1995, Murphy has embraced his role as a mentor and veteran leader with willingness and enthusiasm. Murphy, who has been selected by the AHL to work two Calder Cup Finals and the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic, continues to earn the respect of fellow officials, coaches and players alike.

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

In operation since 1936, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League teams. More than 87 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.