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AHL Weekly Release: Stars ready to shine in Bingo

08allstar-rbk.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The 2008 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Reebok, set for this coming Sunday and Monday, will bring some of the best young players in hockey to the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, N.Y., to continue a tradition that actually dates back more than 65 years.

While 2008 marks the 14th installment of the league’s modern All-Star event, the first AHL All-Star Game was held on Feb. 3, 1942, under the support of league president Maurice Podoloff. The game, played at the famed Arena in Cleveland, was a fundraiser for U.S. and Canadian efforts in World War II and featured some of the most notable names in league history, including 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 was brought back in 1954, and for the next six years the contest pitted the defending Calder Cup champions against 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 played in all six of these games. Other AHL 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, who will serve as the Hockey Hall of Fame AHL All-Star Classic honoree at this year’s event in Binghamton.

Following the All-Star Game in December 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 teams faced 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 changed in 1997 to the current set-up pitting Canadian-born players against those born outside Canada.

Since 1995, more than 93 percent of the participants in the AHL All-Star Classic have played in the National Hockey League including nearly 150 who have been in the NHL this season. This week’s NHL All-Star event in Atlanta will feature nine former AHL All-Stars: Brian Campbell, Zdeno Chara, Rick DiPietro, Manny Legace, Martin St. Louis, Marc Savard, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal and Tomas Vokoun.

Fans in Binghamton and a live international TV audience is set to once again witness the AHL’s best face off on one of hockey’s brightest stages, the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Reebok. The 2008 CCM AHL All-Star Skills Competition is set for Sunday, Jan. 27, at 7:00 ET, and the 2008 AHL All-Star Game will follow on Monday, Jan. 28, at 7:00 ET. The AHL All-Star TV network will reach over 100 million households; visit theahl.com for a schedule of air times.

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AHL HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS SET … As part of the festivities for the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Reebok, the AHL will be inducting three new members into the league’s Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2008 includes Steve Kraftcheck, Noel Price and Tim Tookey, and will be enshrined as part of the annual Hockey Hall of Fame/AHL All-Star Classic Luncheon at the Binghamton University Events Center on Monday afternoon, Jan. 28.

EPIC REDUX … In a rematch of their epic head-to-head showdown in the 2003 Calder Cup Finals, goaltenders Johan Holmqvist and Ty Conklin faced off again on Friday night – this time in the National Hockey League. As he did in 2003, Holmqvist got the better of the duel on Friday, making 27 saves to lead his Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-0 win over Conklin and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Playing for Houston in 2003, Holmqvist earned the Jack Butterfield Trophy as MVP of the Calder Cup Playoffs after the Aeros defeated Conklin’s Hamilton Bulldogs in a classic epic seven-game showdown. Kyle Wanvig, who had an assist in Houston’s Game 7 win on June 12, 2003, scored the winning goal for the Lightning on Friday.

The 2003 Finals included the longest game in AHL history, a quadruple-overtime Bulldogs win in Game 2 which saw Conklin (83 saves) and Holmqvist (79) combine to stop 162 of 165 shots.

KEYSTONE MILESTONE … The Philadelphia Phantoms honored Rich Shewman of Douglasville, Pa., as the four-millionth fan in team history at Sunday’s game against Lowell. Shewman was presented with a custom “Four Million” jersey and a commemorative plaque by Phantoms chief operating officer Frank Miceli, and Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider was on hand to greet Shewman and his family.
Shewman also received four tickets to all Phantoms home games for the next 4 million seconds (through March 11), four tickets to the Phantoms’ game on Feb. 9 at Manchester (a round trip of approximately 4 million feet), a four-million-pixel (4 megapixel) digital camera, four million microliters of Pepsi (two two-liter bottles) and a copy of the 1906 book The Four Million by O. Henry.

Since the team’s inception in 1996, a total of 4,000,391 fans have attended Philadelphia’s 462 regular-season home games, an average of 8,658 fans per game.

ETC.Justin Mapletoft scored two of Binghamton’s three shorthanded goals in a 5-3 win over Philadelphia on Saturday… Peoria defenseman Jeff Woywitka has five goals and five assists in his last eight games, including the first three game-winning goals of his pro career… Grant Stevenson scored all four Quad City goals in Sunday’s 4-2 win over Rochester, all assisted by Carsen Germyn… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lost 31 goals and 52 assists when forwards Tim Brent, Jonathan Filewich and Chris Minard were all recalled by Pittsburgh on Sunday… Petteri Wirtanen entered the week on an 11-game scoring streak for Portland (2g, 13a)… Providence’s Jeff Hoggan has seven points (4g, 3a) and a plus-8 rating in his last four games… Rockford is 18-3-1-4 in its last 26 games since Nov. 25, with Corey Crawford earning the decision in all but one (17-4-4)… Albany’s 4-2 win over Hershey on Friday snapped the River Rats’ 13-game regular-season home winless streak to the Bears (0-12-0-1)… Manchester has won seven of its last nine road games, but is winless in its last six at home (0-4-1-1)… With the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo taking over the AT&T Center, the Rampage kick off a 14-game, 29-day road odyssey on Tuesday in Peoria… PlanetUSA AHL All-Star captain Keith Aucoin enters the AHL chat room (theahl.com) to answer fans’ questions on Tuesday, Jan. 22.