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AHL to honor Kings Assistant Coach John Stevens on January 30 as part of the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic

by Mike Kalinowski / Los Angeles Kings
Later this month Kings assistant coach John Stevens will officially be inducted into the American Hockey League’s Hall of Fame.  Stevens is one of only 16 men to win an AHL championship both as a player and as a head coach.  

The Class of 2012, which in addition to Stevens includes Joe Crozier, Jack Gordon and Zellio Toppazzini, will be honored as part of the festivities at the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic in Atlantic City, N.J.  The American Hockey League Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony is scheduled for Monday, January 30, at the Circus Maximus Theatre at Caesars Atlantic City.

Stevens recently spoke with members of the media about his upcoming induction and what the honor means to him.  

Question:  John I’m always careful to use the word “minor” when talking about the American Hockey League.  I don’t think there is anything minor about it.  Let’s start from a player’s perspective, yours in particular.  How does it make players professionals?

John Stevens:  Its funny, I think I am actually a career minor leaguer.  The American Hockey League in my opinion is the closest league outside the National Hockey League at that level.  I think as a player you’re one step away from getting to what most kids dream about doing: playing in the National Hockey League.  It’s a great league.  I think young kids come in underestimating the league and I always thought it a privilege to play there.  You’re one call away from going up and playing in the National Hockey League and once you play there you realize that the line between playing in the National League and the American League is a small one and if players go down with the right attitude and work hard they can make that step.

Question:  From a coaching perspective, how does the AHL prepare coaches to take their game to the next level and improve themselves?

John Stevens:  I think the American League has some different challenges because of the call-up situation, young players, and the turnover in your lineup.  But there is no question as to the pro-game, it’s closely related to the National Hockey League game.  The biggest change I found in the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League is the schedule.  The American League is based around the weekend where you play Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; three games in three nights.  And in the National Hockey League it seems like you never stop.  You play, day off, play.  That was the biggest change for me but outside of that the level of play, preparing your team, and things you need to work on, there’s more of a development side of it in the American Hockey League.  It’s a great training ground and I think the amount of guys coaching in the National Hockey League that spent time in the American League speaks for itself.

Question:  You have a wealth of experience with that league and I’m sure you have many memories.  What are some of the fondest memories or some of the memories most vivid to you?

John Stevens:  Well I’ve been fortunate.  I’ve played on three teams in the American League: Hershey, Springfield, and the Philadelphia Phantoms.  I think as a player you always want to try and win the grand prize and I was able to do that in every place.  You almost feel like you owe it to them, you owe it to your fans there.  Having left every place, having won a championship, two in Philadelphia, one as a coach and one as a player.  I had a family then.  My kids were around then and those times in Philadelphia were pretty special.  I played in the Spectrum when it was sold out, I played in the Wachovia Center, its changed names a number of times but the Flyers big rink, and the lockout year we won a championship in front of 20,000 people there.  Those four championships were special but certainly the time in Philadelphia stands out.

Question:  I can give you a chance to practice your Hall of Fame speech, dip into those memories and tell me what it will mean to be joining an American Hockey League class.

John Stevens:  It’s a special honor for me and for my family to be honest with you because I have a great deal of respect for the American Hockey League and what it represents.  I have always felt it was a privilege to play and coach there and it’s really afforded me a lot of great things in life and with my family being able to grow up around the game.  I have nothing but respect for the American Hockey League and the level of play and the professionalism that it exudes, from David Andrews (President and CEO of the AHL) on through it, and to be held in such company as Frank Mathers (all-time assist and point-scoring leader among AHL defensemen upon his retirement as a player in 1962), it’s a special honor for me and I’m truly flattered.

The AHL Hall of Fame was formed in 2006 to recognize, honor and celebrate individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions in the American Hockey League.  
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams, as well as the NHL’s on-ice officials.  By season’s end in 2010-11, more than 87 percent of all NHL players were American Hockey League graduates, including more than 200 former first- and second-round draft picks and more than 300 players who appeared in both leagues last season alone.
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