AHL names winners of excellence awards

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews has announced that the league has named the 2015-16 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. 

Charlotte Checkers chief operating officer Tera Black has been selected as the winner of the James C. Hendy Memorial Award, given to the outstanding executive in the American Hockey League for 2015-16.  

Overseeing all of the day-to-day business of the Checkers organization, Black led the initiative that saw the team move to Bojangles’ Coliseum in 2015-16, a massive project which included a complete refurbishment of an arena that was originally built in 1950 and which has provided the Checkers with a viable long-term future. She has also succeeded in enlarging and strengthening the Checkers’ footprint in the Charlotte community, and her knowledge, commitment and leadership have allowed the Checkers to remain at the forefront of digital and social media as well as creative marketing strategies. 

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. 

New York Rangers senior vice president and assistant general manager Jim Schoenfeld was honored with the Thomas Ebright Award in recognition of career contributions to the AHL. Schoenfeld recently completed his 13th season as GM of the Hartford Wolf Pack, continuing to play a key role in developing the organization’s prospects, and also served as the chairman of the AHL’s Competition Committee in 2015-16. Schoenfeld, who has also had stints in the AHL as a player (Cincinnati, 1973-74) and head coach (Rochester, 1984-85; Hartford, 2005-07), has provided invaluable leadership within the American Hockey League during his career, serving on the Competition Committee and Executive Committee and helping the league develop player safety initiatives.  

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 Lake Erie Monsters (team of the year), the San Diego Gulls (business excellence) and Michael Leighton of the Rockford IceHogs (player excellence) were named the 2015-16 winners of the President’s Awards

The Lake Erie Monsters had a remarkable 2015-16 season both on and off the ice, culminating with the city’s first Calder Cup championship in 52 years. Developing a strong relationship with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first season of their in-state affiliation, the Monsters ranked third in the AHL in attendance during the regular season (8,596 avg.) before averaging more than 11,000 fans per game to Quicken Loans Arena during their Calder Cup Playoff run. The organization was also among the league leaders in all major sales areas and continued to set an example for outstanding community relations, game presentation and fan experience. 

In their inaugural AHL season, the San Diego Gulls ranked second in the entire AHL in average attendance with 8,675 fans per game filling the Valley View Casino Center. The Gulls quickly became one of the league’s leaders in season tickets and group ticket sales, setting a standard of excellence for other franchises new and old to strive for. 

Veteran goaltender Michael Leighton achieved several impressive milestones in 2015-16, most notably becoming the AHL’s career leader in shutouts (46) and surpassing a record that had been held by Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bower for nearly six decades. Earlier in the year, Leighton became just the 13th goaltender in AHL history with 200 career wins, and he also backstopped the Central Division to victory in the 2016 AHL All-Star Challenge, his fourth career All-Star appearance. The 15-year pro also tied a career high with 28 victories (28-8-8, 2.44, .918) for Rockford. 

The President’s Awards are given to an AHL organization for overall excellence, and to an AHL player in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in the past year. 

Veteran linesman Joe Ross has been named the 2015-16 recipient of the Michael Condon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions by an on-ice official. Ross is one of the longest-tenured members of the league’s officiating staff, having worked games throughout New England for the last 24 seasons. Well respected by players, coaches and fellow officials alike, Ross has been selected for three Calder Cup Finals during his career and officiated the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic in Worcester, Mass. 

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 continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 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. In 2015-16, over 7.1 million fans attended AHL regular-season and playoff games across North America, the highest total attendance in league history.