The American Hockey League today announced the four people selected for induction into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame as the Class of 2018.
Honored by the AHL Hall of Fame Selection Committee as the 13th group of enshrinees are Jim Bartlett, Don Biggs, Brian Kilrea and Glenn Merkosky.
“The foundation of the American Hockey League for more than 80 years has been formed by those who excelled in making it what it is today,” said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. “The AHL Board of Governors is proud to unanimously endorse the Selection Committee’s recommendation for the induction of these four individuals into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame as the Class of 2018.”
The Class of 2018 will be honored as part of the festivities at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino, hosted by the Utica Comets. The American Hockey League Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony is scheduled for January 29, 2018, at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y.
Formed in 2006 to recognize, honor and celebrate individuals for their outstanding achievements and contributions in the American Hockey League, the AHL Hall of Fame is housed online at www.ahlhalloffame.com and is accessible to fans worldwide with the click of a mouse as part of the AHL Internet Network.
In operation since 1936, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers.
CLASS OF 2018
Never a flashy scorer or high-profile superstar, Jim Bartlett spent a majority of his 21-year professional career in the American Hockey League and was one of the most consistent performers of his era.
Nicknamed “Rocky” for his feisty style of play, Bartlett debuted in the NHL with his hometown Montreal Canadiens in 1955 and then made his first AHL appearance with Providence the following season, racking up 28 goals and 110 penalty minutes in 50 games and helping the Reds to the 1956 Calder Cup championship. It would be the first of a dozen 20-goal seasons for Bartlett in the American League.
Bartlett would spend five up-and-down seasons between the AHL and the New York Rangers, and on Jan. 5, 1958, he tied an AHL record when he scored two goals in a span of just five seconds against Rochester and goaltender Gerry McNeil; the mark still stands six decades later. In 1959-60, Bartlett played most of the year in the NHL but averaged a point per game for the Springfield Indians in the postseason en route to another Calder Cup.
Bartlett played the entire 1960-61 campaign with the Boston Bruins, his final taste of the NHL before spending most of the next 12 years exclusively in the AHL. Returning to Providence, he set career highs with 31 goals in 1961-62 and 66 points in 1962-63, famously playing on the “B” Line with Stan Baliuk and Pierre Brillant. And although his career was nearly ended by an errant stick to the eye, he came back and led the Reds in scoring in 1964-65.
Bartlett joined the Baltimore Clippers in 1966 and became a member of the AHL’s exclusive 300-goal club in 1970. He made one more trip to the Calder Cup Finals in 1972, and retired in 1973 following a 24-goal season at the age of 40.
Bartlett played 955 regular-season games in his AHL career, good for 10th on the league’s all-time list. He ranks ninth with 360 goals and 21st with 742 points.
Don Biggs may have been small in stature but he certainly played big, becoming one of the dominant American Hockey League scorers of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
A late-round draft pick by the Minnesota North Stars in 1983, Biggs, listed at 5-foot-8, broke into the pro ranks with the Springfield Indians at the end of the 1984-85 season, and in his first full campaign as a professional he tallied 60 points in 75 AHL games split between Springfield and Nova Scotia.
Biggs’ breakthrough season came in 1987-88 after signing as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers. Biggs led the Hershey Bears with 38 goals in the regular season and tied for the team lead with 16 points in the postseason. That Hershey team, considered by many to be among the best in AHL history, won 50 games before going a perfect 12-0 in the playoffs en route to the Calder Cup championship.
That year would prove to be just the beginning for Biggs, the first of six consecutive 30-goal seasons in the AHL. He finished fifth in the league scoring race in both 1988-89 – putting up 103 points in 76 games with the Bears – and 1989-90, with 92 points in 66 contests. Then with the Rochester Americans in 1990-91, Biggs paced the team with 88 points in the regular season and notched a league-high 23 points in the playoffs as the Amerks reached the Calder Cup Finals.
Biggs was acquired by the New York Rangers in 1991, and with Binghamton in 1992-93 he authored the most prolific season the AHL has ever seen. In 78 games, Biggs scored 54 goals and added 84 assists for 138 points, the highest total in the history of the American Hockey League. He was the offensive catalyst for a Rangers team that went 57-13-10 – the best regular-season record ever in the AHL – and he was a runaway winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the league’s most valuable player.
Biggs would play six more years of professional hockey, but the 1992-93 season was his last appearance in the AHL. Despite skating in just 597 games and eight full seasons, Biggs is tied for 24th on the league’s all-time scoring list with 692 career points (273 goals, 419 assists), ranking seventh in points per game among members of the 500-point club.
Before he became a Hall of Fame coach and a hockey icon, Brian Kilrea had an illustrious playing career as a forward in the American Hockey League.
Kilrea spent 10 seasons in the AHL, mainly skating for owner Eddie Shore’s Springfield Indians during their hey-day of the 1960’s. His arrival in Springfield in 1959 coincided with the team’s unprecedented (and since-unmatched) run of three consecutive Calder Cup championships. Kilrea did not miss a single regular-season game over four years from 1961 to 1965, and in 1961-62 he led the entire league with 73 assists and established a career high with 93 points in 70 contests for the Indians.
The Ottawa native put together five straight seasons of at least 75 points and hit the 20-goal mark six times. He got his first extended taste of the National Hockey League in 1967-68 with the Los Angeles Kings – scoring the first goal in the expansion franchise’s history – before finishing the season back in Springfield. Kilrea would skate in 33 games for the Rochester Americans in 1968-69 to conclude his AHL career.
A 2003 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Kilrea totaled 624 points in his 623 career AHL games. And in a history of AHL hockey in the city of Springfield that spans eight decades, he is the all-time leader in assists (442) and ranks third in both points (611) and games played (590).
A consistent scorer throughout his 10 AHL seasons, Glenn Merkosky was one of the league’s leading point-getters during the 1980’s.
Merkosky made his pro debut with the Binghamton Whalers in 1980-81 and finished second on the team in scoring with 61 points while skating in all 80 games. The following season, he upped his totals to 29 goals and 69 points and helped the Whalers reach the 1982 Calder Cup Finals.
Merkosky joined the New Jersey Devils organization and following another successful regular season in 1983-84, he erupted for 11 goals and 21 points in 17 postseason contests as the Maine Mariners captured the Calder Cup championship. He then had a 38-goal season for Maine in 1984-85, and was named a Second Team AHL All-Star.
The reliable left wing signed with Detroit in the summer of 1985 and in his first season with the Adirondack Red Wings, Merkosky put up 24 goals and 57 points in 59 games before helping the club to a Calder Cup title.
Merkosky’s best numbers came in 1986-87, when he scored 54 goals and finished fifth in the AHL with 85 points. He was named a First Team AHL All-Star and claimed the Fred T. Hunt Award for sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey. He then led Adirondack back to the top of the league in 1988-89, collecting 31 goals and 77 points in 76 games and adding 19 postseason points as the Wings won the Calder Cup, the third of Merkosky’s career.
Merkosky spent two more seasons in Glens Falls, including a 1990-91 season in which he captured his second Fred T. Hunt Award. After scoring at least 24 goals in each of his 10 AHL seasons, Merkosky retired with 325 goals, a total that still ranks 13th in league history. He is also among the AHL’s all-time playoff leaders with 39 goals (T-9th), 51 assists (T-13th) and 90 points (T-9th) in 107 games (13th).
Merkosky served one season as an assistant coach in Adirondack, helping the club to yet another Calder Cup championship in 1992. He returned to Glens Falls as head coach for the Red Wings’ final three seasons (1996-99), and as a long-time scout for Detroit, he has helped the organization claim two more Calder Cup titles in Grand Rapids.