WEEKLY RELEASE #16
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from around the American Hockey League, where the stars are ready to come out in Atlantic City:
AHL STARS TO SHINE ON THE JERSEY SHORE … The 2012 AHL All-Star Classic, set for Sunday and Monday, Jan. 29-30, will feature some of the best young players in hockey hitting the ice before crowds at historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., and in front of an international television audience, continuing a tradition which was born seven decades ago.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first AHL All-Star Game, held on Feb. 3, 1942, under the support of the league’s first president, Maurice Podoloff. That game, played at the famed Arena in Cleveland, served as a fundraiser for U.S. and Canadian efforts in World War II and featured some of the most notable names in league history, including AHL Hall of Famers Les Cunningham and Eddie Shore – two men whose names now grace AHL awards honoring the league’s MVP and outstanding defenseman, respectively.
The AHL All-Star Game returned in 1954, and for the next six years the contest featured the defending Calder Cup champions taking on a team of league All-Stars. Many of the AHL’s great players of the era participated, including AHL Hall of Famer Fred Glover, who participated in all six of these games. Other All-Stars in the 1950’s included future Hockey Hall of Famers Johnny Bower, Frank Mathers, Brian Kilrea, Harry Lumley, Pierre Pilote, Gump Worsley and Emile Francis.
After 1959, the event was not held again until current league president and CEO David Andrews revived it 35 years later. In Providence on Jan. 17, 1995, a team of All-Stars from the AHL’s six Canadian-based teams squared off against All-Stars from the league’s 11 U.S.-based clubs. The annual skills Competition was added in 1996, and the format was modified in 1997 to pit Canadian-born players against those born outside of Canada. Last year, the event format was changed to an East vs. West showdown for the first time since that inaugural game in 1942.
This year’s stars heading to Atlantic City include rookie standouts Cory Conacher (Norfolk), Cam Atkinson (Springfield) and Matt Fraser (Texas), recent first-round draft picks Kyle Palmieri (Syracuse), Alex Plante (Oklahoma City), Zack Kassian (Rochester) and Thomas Hickey (Manchester), and perennial stars Keith Aucoin (Hershey) and Corey Locke (Binghamton), who will both tie a record with their sixth All-Star appearance.
Since 1995, more than 93 percent of all players to take part in the annual AHL All-Star Classic have gone on to compete in the National Hockey League. Nine former AHL All-Stars were selected for this year’s NHL All-Star Weekend, including Mikko Koivu (2005), Logan Couture (2010), Zdeno Chara (1998), Brian Campbell (2001), Keith Yandle (2007), Dennis Wideman (2005), Dustin Byfuglien (2007), Jimmy Howard (2008) and 2010-11 AHL rookie of the year Luke Adam (2011).
Whether they are in Atlantic City or in front of their televisions, fans can catch the 2012 AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 3:00 ET, and the 2012 AHL All-Star Game on Monday, Jan. 30, at 7:00 ET. Produced by Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, the telecasts will air live on Sportsnet in Canada and on a comprehensive network of regional partners in the United States. A complete listing of network and air times can be found on the official website of the American Hockey League, theahl.com.
AHL HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS SET … As part of the festivities for the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic, the AHL will be inducting four new members into the league’s Hall of Fame. The Class of 2012, including Joe Crozier, Jack Gordon, John Stevens and Zellio Toppazzini, will be enshrined as part of the 2012 AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony, to be held at the Circus Maximus Theater at Caesars Atlantic City on Monday, Jan. 31, at 11:00 a.m. ET.
AHL alumni, Philadelphia Flyers legends and Hockey Hall of Fame honored members Bill Barber and Bob Clarke will serve as the honorary captains in Atlantic City, and will also be recognized at Monday’s ceremony.
ALL-STAR OFFICIALS ANNOUNCED … The American Hockey League has named the on-ice officials for the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic at Boardwalk Hall. Francis Charron (fifth AHL season) and Chris Cozzan (ninth season) will serve as the game’s referees, while Scott Adams (18th season) and Bob Fyrer (14th season) will be the linesmen. It will mark the first AHL All-Star appearance for all four.
RECORD-SETTING SATURDAY … The outdoor game at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton was the centerpiece of a record-setting day in the American Hockey League on Jan. 21.
A crowd of 20,565 fans, the largest crowd ever to see an AHL game in Canada, watched Toronto defeat the hometown Bulldogs, 7-2. That figure surpassed the previous Canadian mark of 17,428, established in Game 7 of the 2003 Calder Cup Finals at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.
A total of 130,589 fans attended AHL games on Jan. 21, the most ever on a single day in the league’s 76-year history. Lake Erie drew 17,109 fans to Quicken Loans Arena, the largest crowd for an indoor game in the AHL this season, and Chicago’s crowd of 15,920 was the largest at Allstate Arena in nearly three years. A turnout of 8,840 at the DCU Center was the second-largest in Worcester Sharks history, while Hershey (10,860), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (8,172) and Texas (6,863) all played before capacity crowds on Saturday.
QUICK HITS … Jon Matsumoto recorded three goals and two assists in his first three games with San Antonio after being acquired by Florida in a Jan. 18 trade with Carolina… The Rampage welcomed 842 dogs to the AT&T Center on Jan. 21 for their fifth annual Pucks & Paws event, with 25 more canines adopted by fans that night; team officials will submit the figure to the Guinness Book of World Records to see if the mark will stand as the most dogs ever at a sporting event… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Alex Grant recorded eight points – all on the power play – in three games over the weekend; the Penguins are 11-for-30 (36.7 percent) on the power play and have scored six shorthanded goals during their current six-game winning streak… Stephane Veilleux (Jan. 18 vs. Norfolk) and Joe Whitney (Jan. 21 at Springfield) both recorded first-period hat tricks for Albany last week… In Abbotsford’s 5-2 win over Charlotte on Jan. 21, Robby Dee and James Martin scored their first career AHL goals while Joni Ortio earned his first AHL victory in net… Springfield’s Alexandre Giroux has tied AHL Hall of Famer Tim Tookey for ninth place all-time with 353 career goals… Mike McKenna’s 11-12-0 record for Binghamton this season includes a perfect 6-0-0 mark against Adirondack… Manchester snapped a franchise-record seven-game losing streak with back-to-back victories in Hershey to end the weekend… Despite being winless in 2012 (0-5-2-2), Connecticut remains first in the Northeast Division, entering the week with a two-point lead over Adirondack, Bridgeport and Albany… Heading into the new week, the sixth- through 15th-place teams in the Western Conference were separated by a total of seven points… The top five offensive teams in the AHL all reside in the Eastern Conference, while eight of the top nine team defenses are in the West.