The Professional Hockey Players Association, the union representing minor pro hockey players, contributed the first $200,000 into the COVID-19 ECHL Players Relief Fund last week to financially assist ECHLers.
The ECHL cancelled its season in mid-March, three weeks before the playoffs. According to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, final paychecks came March 16 to more than 400 players on ECHL-only contracts, who make an average of $700-725 per week.
“The guys playing in this league aren’t doing it for the money,” Newfoundland Growlers captain James Melindy told Campbell. “They’re doing it for the love of the game. This is obviously huge. I’m a homeowner and there are bills to be paid. For the guys who have kids and families, they’re really looking forward to paychecks coming in. It’s nice to see they’re doing the right thing for the players.”
Not all Growlers are taking advantage of the Relief Fund. That’s because a vast majority of the Growlers are on American Hockey League/ECHL contracts, and they continue to get paid.
On another note, the Toronto Maple Leafs organization made a hit on the minor league free agent market the past couple of years. Brady Ferguson, a free agent out of Mercyhurst University last year, was named to the ECHL’s second all-star team this week. Defenceman Joe Duszak and forward Justin Brazeau, both free agent signings, were named to the league’s all-rookie team.
Giorgio Estephan was third in team scoring, and Marcus Power was fourth.
The Leafs were busy this week on the junior free agent hunt, signing defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer to a two-year AHL/ECHL deal.
Drafted in the fourth round of the NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes three years ago, Hoefenmayer was an unsigned free agent who was considered the top overage defenceman in the Ontario Hockey League this season with the Ottawa 67s. He led all rearguards with 82 points in 58 games.
The Leafs also signed free agent Jeremy McKenna of Summerside, P.E.I., who finished a fourth season with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats, scoring 40 goals and 82 points in 57 games.
On another contract note, the Leafs signed defenceman Kristians Rubins to a two-year entry level contract, the team announced Tuesday.
Rubins was a free agent signing out of the junior Medicine Hat Tigers in 2018, before helping the Growlers win the Kelly Cup last season.
He made the Marlies this season following a year in the ECHL, and appeared in 47 games, with two goals and 14 points.