Tears were shed, autographs were signed, and memories were shared Wednesday afternoon at the Ontario Hilton during the ECHL’s third annual Hall of Fame luncheon. Cam Brown, E.A. “Bud” Gingher, Olaf Kolzig and Darryl Noren all received induction, and Luc Robitaille warmed up a packed auditorium with a few words of motivation for the ECHL all-stars in attendance — and coming from the former ninth-round draft pick, they ought to go far.
“Never take it for granted,” said Robitaille, currently the Kings’ president of business operations. “It’ll be televised, scouts will be here … but it’s a privilege to represent your entire league.”
Kolzig, the most famous name on the list, said in a pre-recorded video that he could not attend because he booked a Disney cruise with his family over the summer. (Blowing off Ontario for Disney again …) He only played two seasons in the ECHL (1990-91 and 1991-92 for the Hampton Roads Admirals) and became the first player inducted to the Hall’s “Developmental Player” category.
“I’ve got nothing but great things to say about this league — which is a far cry from when I was first sent down,” Kolzig said in the filmed speech. “All I could think about was the movie ‘Slap Shot.’ It couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Brown played more games than any player in ECHL history (789) and has quite a story.
He played 12 minor-league seasons from 1990-2002, mostly in the ECHL, and in 1990 appeared in one game with the Vancouver Canucks. Brown collected no points and seven penalty minutes in that game, and never got back to the NHL again. He spent the 2002-03 season as head coach of the ECHL’s Baton Rouge Kingfish, was coaxed back into playing three more seasons with the Gwinnett Gladiators, and in his final season (2005-06) captained Gwinnett all the way to the Kelly Cup Finals.
A teary-eyed Gwinnett president Steve Chapman introduced Brown as “the best captain I have ever seen in my life.” Brown himself stuttered through an emotional induction speech, telling players that “the passion for the game is what makes it great at every level.” Along with his wife and children, childhood friend Jeff Odgers, a veteran of 12 NHL seasons, was in attendance to support Brown.
Bud Gingher, who passed away in 2002, was co-founded the Dayton Bombers in 1991 and served as the team’s President and Governor until he sold the team in 1998. Gingher’s name still adorns the trophy given annually to the Eastern Conference champion, and his son, Ed, said “this league meant a lot to him.”
Noren played 10 seasons in the ECHL and ranks third in league history with 685 points, fourth with 390 assists, and seventh with 295 goals. He never made it past the IHL or AHL, but told the crowd “I used the ECHL as my NHL and I enjoyed every minute of it.”