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ECHL's history captured in a new book

by Brian Compton

The new book, "20 Years of the ECHL"  by Jim Mancuso includes fantastic photos
and interviews going back to 1988 when the League began with only five teams.
Minor-league hockey has been good to Jim Mancuso.

Why not return the favor?

A member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR), Mancuso’s latest work is a must-read for ECHL fans everywhere. The recently released 20 Years of the ECHL highlights all of the league’s accomplishments, from the formation of the East Coast Hockey League to the players and coaches who have since moved up the professional ranks.

The book has more than 200 photographs and interviews with East Coast Hockey League founders Henry Brabham and Bill Coffey. Mancuso also speaks with former commissioners Patrick J. Kelly and Richard W. Adams, as well as current commissioner Brian McKenna regarding the important – and increasing -- role that the ECHL has in North America.

“When I saw that the ECHL’s 20th anniversary season was coming up, I thought that it would be a great way to commemorate the occasion by writing a book about the history of the league, its teams and its most outstanding figures,” Mancuso told “Some of the most hard-working and dedicated men in the history of sports -- some who just happen to Hockey Hall of Famers -- happened to be hockey men that devoted their careers to organize and maintain leagues on the minor pro level.”

The East Coast Hockey League began with five teams, but 25 are competing in the ECHL this season. McKenna was behind the wheel for the historic expansion that added seven West Coast Hockey League teams for the 2003-04 season.

Mancuso also profiles 50 of the most outstanding figures in ECHL history, including current Trenton Devils coach Rick Kowalsky, as well as 50 outstanding ECHL alumni who skated in the NHL and 20 of the greatest ECHL head coaches that have moved up the professional ranks, like Carolina Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, who began his coaching career with the Wheeling Nailers in 1997.

“The ECHL Legends chapter of the book is the section that I am most proud of because I had the opportunity to select the greatest players, coaches and administrators in ECHL history,” Mancuso said. “I literally started with about 300-350 candidates (mostly players) and chose the top 50 based on specific systematic criteria. The individuals that were chosen deserve the recognition because they helped make the league what it is today, and are some of the greatest figures in minor league hockey history.”

Mancuso – a rabid minor-league hockey fan since growing up in Utica, N.Y., in the 1970s and ’80s – believes it is the passion and the determination of minor-league players, combined with the memories it provides smaller towns – that makes minor-league hockey so special.

“Minor league hockey players are true champions of the sport because they play for the love of the game, and it is through their hard work and efforts that the excitement of hockey is delivered to fans in small markets,” Mancuso said.

To order “20 Years of the ECHL,” visit the Official ECHL Website.

Say Hello To The Toledo Walleye – Goodbye, Storm. Hello, Walleye.

Toledo Arena Sports Inc. announced on Wednesday that the new professional team in Toledo will be named the Walleye. They will replace the Storm, who went on voluntary suspension following last season while a new arena was constructed in downtown Toledo.

The Walleye will begin play at the state-of-the-art Lucas County Downtown Arena in October 2009.

“There are the Biscuits of Montgomery, the Nuts of Modesto, the Lugnuts of Lansing, and of course, the Mud Hens of Toledo,” said Toledo Arena Sports General Manager Joe Napoli. “What makes these team names amongst the most popular in Minor League sports? Not a whole lot, until you develop a word mark, logo and mascot that is unique, indigenous and fun for all age groups.”

Nick Vitucci, who coached the Storm from December 2003 until the end of last season, will be behind the bench when the Walleye begin ECHL play in a little more than 19 months from now.

"I think all hockey fans will enjoy and embrace Toledo Walleye as they have with the names of the past”, Vitucci said.

Added ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna: "The Toledo name and logo are unique. The name reflects strong local ties, and the Walleye logo is a fresh new mark with a lot of potential."

Fans can purchase Walleye merchandise at the team’s Web site,

Marks Ties Brophy – Congratulations to Pensacola Ice Pilots coach John Marks, who tied the legendary John Brophy’s ECHL record for most regular-season wins last Friday with a 3-2 victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators.

Marks, who coached Charlotte from 1993-98 and Greenville from 1998-2006, returned to the ECHL for a record 14th season after coaching Fayetteville to the Southern Professional Hockey League Championship in 2006-07.

His record in the ECHL is 480-401-90 and he is the league career leader with 971 games coached. He was the first coach to lead two different teams to the ECHL championship as Charlotte won the Riley Cup in 1996 and Greenville won the Kelly Cup in 2002.

The Ice Pilots, who are last in the South Division at 14-33-6, will travel to Mississippi on Sunday.

“I was thinking I would have it in December and it would be over and done with,” Marks said in last Friday’s edition of the Pensacola News Journal.

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