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All-Stars ready to shine on Winnipeg

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic, set for this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, will bring some of the best young players in hockey to the MTS Centre in Winnipeg to continue a tradition that actually began 64 years ago.

While 2006 marks the 12th 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 defending Calder Cup champions would be pitted against a team of league all-stars. Many of the AHL’s great players of the era participated; Dunc Fisher and Fred Glover played in all six of these games. Other AHL All-Stars in the 1950’s included future Hockey Hall of Famers Frank Mathers, Emile Francis, Brian Kilrea, Harry Lumley, Pierre Pilote, Gump Worsley and Johnny Bower, who made 47 saves in a 4-0 shutout win in the October 1956 game.

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. In 2003, John Slaney became the all-time scoring leader with his eighth All-Star point.

A sold-out arena 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 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic in Winnipeg. The AHL All-Star TV network will reach nearly 100 million households; click here for a schedule of air times.

AHL HALL OF FAMERS SET FOR INDUCTION … One of the highlights of this week’s festivities in Winnipeg will be Wednesday’s induction of the first seven members of the American Hockey League Hall of Fame, taking place during the annual All-Star Classic Luncheon.

The inaugural Class of 2006 consists of Johnny Bower, Jack Butterfield, Jody Gage, Fred Glover (who will be represented at the ceremony by his brother and former teammate Howie), Willie Marshall, Frank Mathers (represented by his wife, Patricia) and Eddie Shore (represented by his son, Ted).

CH-CH-CHANGES … Some late roster changes have been announced for this week’s All-Star Classic. PlanetUSA defensemen Matt Jones of San Antonio (injury) and Danny Richmond of Norfolk (NHL recall) and Canadian forwards Dustin Penner of Portland and Mike Glumac of Peoria (NHL recalls) will miss the event. Added to the PlanetUSA side is Peoria defenseman Mike Mottau, and to the Canadian team is San Antonio forward Layne Ulmer.

Jimmy Roy of the host Manitoba Moose will replace Penner in the Canadian starting lineup.

SATURDAY CROWDS PACK AHL ARENAS … Nearly 100,000 fans took in a full slate of games around the American Hockey League on Saturday night, with every one of the 13 home games drawing crowds above their season averages.

Houston led the pack with a Saturday crowd of 11,672 at the Toyota Center to watch the Aeros post a 5-4 victory over Chicago. In Cleveland, 8,186 fans were at the Quicken Loans Arena, more than triple the Barons’ season average, for the home team’s game against Milwaukee.


Team Saturday Avg. before Sat. Difference Cleveland 8,186 3,175 +151.7% Houston 11,672 5,170 +121.1% Springfield 5,890 3,223 +79.3% Peoria 8,217 4,522 +78.2% Iowa 8,842 4,938 +76.0% Portland 7,159 4,365 +61.5% Bridgeport 5,223 3,236 +58.9% Albany 5,161 3,959 +29.1% Hamilton 6,111 4,784 +26.6% Hartford 5,927 4,965 +18.5% Syracuse 5,917 5,378 +9.5% Hershey 8,061 7,340 +9.4% Wilkes-Barre 8,347 8,147 +2.3% AHL Average 7,286 5,145 +40.8% 


ETC. … Bridgeport forward Robert Nilsson scored a highlight-reel, lacrosse-style goal in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday night; the clip is available on… Syracuse center Mark Hartigan heads to Winnipeg for the All-Star Classic on a 16-game scoring streak, with 16 goals and 17 assists in that span… In the team’s first eight years of play, no Hartford defenseman had ever recorded four points in a game; All-Star Thomas Pock has done it three times in his last 15 games… Omaha defenseman Steve Bancroft skated in the 1,000th game of his North American pro career on Saturday night; more than half have come in the AHL… Milwaukee’s Scottie Upshall has picked up 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points in his last seven AHL games… Providence had a 10-game home winning streak snapped by Philadelphia on Sunday… Norfolk’s crowd of 7,064 on Friday night was the largest in the team’s AHL history.