Minard wins Fred T. Hunt Award

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that forward Chris Minard of the Grand Rapids Griffins has been named the 2011-12 winner of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.

The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

After suffering with the after-effects of a concussion for more than two years, including missing this season’s first 36 games, Minard returned to action on Jan. 15 and immediately put a charge in Grand Rapids’ offense. Minard scored twice in his second game back, and later recorded two hat tricks in February en route to earning Reebok/AHL Player of the Month honors. Despite playing just 33 games, Minard is tied for third on the Griffins with 20 goals and leads all team forwards with a plus-16 rating to keep Grand Rapids in the hunt for a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Now in his 10th professional campaign, Minard spent most of his first four seasons in the ECHL and Central Hockey League before first breaking through as a full-time AHL player. The native of Owen Sound, Ont., has gone on to appear in 365 games in the American Hockey League, totaling 158 goals and 113 assists, and has also skated in 40 contests in the National Hockey League with Edmonton and Pittsburgh.

This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1978, honors the late Fred T. Hunt, a long-time contributor to the league who won three Calder Cup championships as a player and three more as a general manager. Previous winners of the award include Ross Yates (1983), Glenn Merkosky (1987, ’91), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Murray Eaves (’89, ’90), John Anderson (1992), Tim Tookey (1993), Ken Gernander (1996, 2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2000), Mike Keane (2007), Ajay Baines (2009) and Bryan Helmer (2011).

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 2011-12 regular season ends on Apr. 15, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs get under way.