Toledo Walleye

Last updated
Toledo Walleye
Toledo Walleye Logo.svg
City Toledo, Ohio
League ECHL
ConferenceWestern
DivisionCentral
Founded1991
Home arena Huntington Center
ColorsPowder blue, navy blue, gold, white
    
Owner(s)Toledo Arena Sports, Inc
General managerNeil Neukam
Head coachPat Mikesch
Media Toledo Blade
WCWA (1230 AM)
BCSN
Affiliates Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
Website www.toledowalleye.com
Franchise history
1991–2007 Toledo Storm
2009–presentToledo Walleye
Championships
Regular season titles3 (2014–15, 2016–17, 2021–22)
Division titles5 (2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18), 2021–22)
Conference titles2 (2018–19, 2021–22)
Hockey current event.svg Current season

The Toledo Walleye are a professional ice hockey team based in Toledo, Ohio. The Walleye are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the ECHL. The Walleye were founded in 1991 as the Toledo Storm and play their home games at the Huntington Center, which opened in 2009. Since the beginning of the 2009–10 season, the team has been affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League and the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League [1] with an agreement in place through the 2023–24 season. [2]

Contents

The team is currently owned and operated by Toledo Arena Sports, Inc. The current ownership group is a subsidiary of Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club, Inc., another ownership that owns and operates the Toledo Mud Hens.

History

Toledo Storm (1991–2007)

The Walleye were founded in 1991 as the Toledo Storm, playing their home games at Toledo Sports Arena across the river from downtown Toledo. The Storm were the first hockey team to play in Toledo since the International Hockey League's Toledo Goaldiggers suspended operations in 1986, eventually moving to Kansas City in 1990. In the Storm's inaugural season, the team won the West Division title and the Henry Brabham Cup after posting the league's best record in the regular season. The following year the Storm won its first Jack Riley Cup, defeating the Wheeling Thunderbirds in six games. The Storm came back the following season and won its second Riley Cup, defeating the Raleigh Icecaps in five games, becoming only the second team in league history to win back-to-back league titles (the first being the Hampton Roads Admirals in 1991 and 1992). The Storm were dominant in its first few years, winning four division titles in their first five seasons and posting a winning record in thirteen of the sixteen seasons the team played. The Storm won its second Brabham Cup in 2003 and made the American Conference finals during the 2005–06 season, ultimately losing to the Gwinnett Gladiators in five games. The Storm's final game came on April 19, 2007 during the 2007 North Division semifinals losing to in-state rival, Cincinnati Cyclones by a score of 4–0 getting swept in the series 3 games to 0. In sixteen seasons in the ECHL, the Storm posted a 610-395-103 record, winning two Riley Cups, two Brabham Cups and six division titles.

Sale to Toledo Arena Sports and Two Year Suspension

In 2007, Toledo Arena Sports, Inc., an Ohio-Not-For-Profit Corporation, purchased the rights to the Toledo, Ohio Territory from the ECHL. The new ownership group was planning to build a new state-of-the-art arena in downtown Toledo to replace the aging Sports Arena. Shortly after the sale, Toledo Arena Sports announced that after the 2006–07 season, the Storm would not compete again until the arena was completed and the ECHL granted the Storm a two-year voluntary suspension from competition.

In February 2008, General Manager Joe Napoli announced that former Storm goaltender, ECHL Hall of Famer, and head coach from 2003 to 2007, Nick Vitucci would return to coach the franchise when it returned to the ice in 2009. [3] One week after announcing Vitucci as head coach, Toledo Arena Sports Inc. renamed the Storm the "Walleye," in reference to the popular game fish that is abundant in the area. [4]

Toledo Walleye (2009–present)

Inaugural season logo promoting Opening Weekend, 2009 Toledo Walleye opening weekend.gif
Inaugural season logo promoting Opening Weekend, 2009

At the ECHL Mid-Season Board of Governors meeting, the league announced that the Walleye would be members of the American Conference's North Division along with the Cincinnati Cyclones, Elmira Jackals, Johnstown Chiefs, Wheeling Nailers [5] and Kalamazoo Wings. [6] During the NHL's award ceremonies in Las Vegas, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland stated that the Walleye would become Detroit's ECHL affiliate for the 2009–10 season and that the Wings would send one of their three goaltender prospects (either Jordan Pearce, Thomas McCollum or Daniel Larsson) to Toledo for the season. [7] [8] On August 5, 2009, the Walleye announced a second affiliation agreement, becoming the ECHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago's AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs. [9]

Alternate logo Toledo Walleye alternate logo.jpg
Alternate logo

The Walleye opened their inaugural season on October 16, 2009, hosting the defending Brabham Cup champion Florida Everblades in the first of a three-game series. Prior to the Walleye's home opener, head coach Nick Vitucci named defenseman Ryan Stokes as the team's captain. [10] Despite a strong effort, the Walleye dropped their opener to Florida 12 in front of a sell-out crowd of 8,000, the largest crowd to ever watch a pro hockey game in Toledo at the time. [11] The Walleye would return the next night and rookie goaltender Jordan Pearce would stop 35 of 37 shots faced as the Walleye scored three goals in the final period to get past the Everblades for the team's first win, 52. [12] On December 31, defenseman J.C. Sawyer and forward Maxime Tanguay were selected to the American Conference All-Star team and played at the All-Star Game at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California on January 20. [13] Sawyer was named the captain of the American Conference All-Stars. [14] At the end of the regular season, defenseman J.C. Sawyer was named as a First Team selection to the All-ECHL team and won the Defenseman of the Year award, [15] while center Maxime Tanguay was named to the All-Rookie team. [16] The Walleye would finish the regular season in eighth place in the American Conference leading to a matchup with the American Conference regular season champions, the Charlotte Checkers. [17] Toledo, behind a hat trick from winger Adam Keefe, claimed a 72 victory over top-seeded Charlotte in game one of the series, the first playoff game win for the organization since game two of the 2006 American Conference Finals against the Gwinnett Gladiators. [18] However, the Walleye would lose the next three games to Charlotte and were eliminated from the playoffs in four games.

2012-13 home opener vs. Kalamazoo Wings. 2012 Toledo and Kalamazoo.jpg
2012–13 home opener vs. Kalamazoo Wings.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Walleye voluntarily suspended operations for the 2020–21 season. [19] Coming back from the voluntary suspension, the Walleye would go on to win the Brabham Cup [20] in the 2021–22 season, finishing with the league's best points % with.708, the only team above .700%. They would then go on to win in comeback fashion the first series of the 2022 Kelly Cup Playoffs, 4–3. [21] They then went on to sweep Wheeling [22] and best Utah in 5 games after losing Game 1. [23] The Walleye would go on to lose the Kelly Cup Finals to the Florida Everblades, who beat the Newfoundland Growlers, the team that beat Toledo in the 2018-19 Kelly Cup Finals, 4 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal [24] [25] [26]

Mascots

On July 27, 2009, the Walleye introduced Spike, their costumed mascot at a Toledo Mud Hens baseball game. Spike is a yellow anthropomorphic walleye, adorned with a white Walleyes jersey, blue gloves, helmet and shoes and a gap tooth smile. Spike's nemesis is Cat Trick, a fuzzy blue cat, with a fishing vest and bright yellow boots. The two like to take cheap shots at each other during games.

Winterfest

The first ECHL outdoor hockey event was at Fifth Third Field on Saturday, December 27, 2014. [27] The Walleye lost 2-1 to the visiting Kalamazoo Wings. On January 5, the Walleye fell to the Fort Wayne Komets 3-2 in a shootout. In addition to the Walleye games, the annual Battle of the Badges game between the Toledo Police Department and Toledo Fire Department occurred on December 31, [28] the U.S. National Under 18 Team defeated Adrian College 6-1 in an exhibition on January 1, [29] and Bowling Green played Robert Morris to a 2-2 draw on January 4. [30] Anthony Wayne High School, Saint Ignatius High School, Saint John's High School, Whitmer High School, and many other youth and adult teams also participated in the Winterfest. Over 10 days, an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people attended events at the stadium. [31]

Rivalries

Fort Wayne Komets

The Walleye’s rivalry with the Komets is arguably the best in the ECHL. The teams are only 100 miles apart and would take a less than two hour drive to get from the Huntington Center to Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The games between the two often result in some of the most hostile atmospheres in minor league hockey. Both teams play in the same division, making every matchup hotly contested.

Cincinnati Cyclones

The Walleye’s rivalry with the Cyclones is one of proximity, as both teams play in the state of Ohio. They also play in the same division. In both the 2022 and 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs, the two teams met each other, with Toledo winning the series 4-3 in 2022 and Toledo winning again in 2023 4-0. Although not as fierce as the Komets rivalry, the Walleye and Cyclones matchup never seems to disappoint. Both teams usually finish at the top of their division.

Season-by-season record

Opening night of the 2009-10 Toledo Walleye season Toledo Walleye First Game.jpg
Opening night of the 2009–10 Toledo Walleye season

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, OTL = Overtime losses, SOL = shootout losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Regular seasonPlayoffs
Season GPWLOTLSOLPtsGFGAPIMStandingYear1st round2nd round3rd round Kelly Cup
2009–10 723530257725427414523rd, North 2010 L, 1–3, [32] CHA
2010–11 723333427223925511954th, North 2011 did not qualify
2011–12 722838246218925811404th, North 2012 did not qualify
2012–13 72372654832241959822nd, North 2013 L, 2–4, [33] CIN
2013–14 722144434919326810205th, North 2014 did not qualify
2014–15 725015521072811827851st, North 2015 W, 4–3, WHL W, 4–3, FW L, 3–4, SC [34]
2015–16 72472023992251746651st, North 2016 L, 3–4, REA
2016–17 725117221063021918491st, Central 2017 W, 4–3, KAL W, 4–1, FW L, 1–4, COL
2017–18 725017321052421708461st, Central 2018 W, 4–0, IND L, 2–4, FW
2018–19 724023638923722110162nd, Central 2019 W, 4–2, FW W, 4–1, CIN W, 4–3, TUL L, 2–4, NFL
2019–20 59371741792251637482nd, Central2020Season cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2020–21 Opted out of participating due to the COVID-19 pandemic 2021 did not participate
2021–22 724919221022772037601st, Central 2022 W, 4–3, CIN [35] W, 4–0, WHL [36] W, 4–1, UTA [37] L, 1–4, FLA [38]
2022–23 72451953982521798862nd, Central 2023 W 4–0 IND [39] W 4–0 CINL 14 IDA

Players and personnel

Current roster

Updated December 1, 2023. [40]
Team roster
No. Nat Player Pos S/G AgeAcquiredBirthplaceContract
9 Flag of the United States.svg Matt Anderson D L24 2023 Shakopee, Minnesota Walleye
30 Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Jan Bednar G L21 2023 Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic Griffins
58 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Adrien Beraldo D L24 2023 Stoney Creek, Ontario Walleye
18 Flag of the United States.svg Trenton Bliss F L25 2022 Dallas, Texas Griffins
7 Flag of the United States.svg Sam Craggs LW L27 2022 Elmhurst, Illinois Walleye
55 Flag of the United States.svg Will Cullen D R27 2023 Pelham Manor, New York Walleye
22 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Carson Denomie RW L24 2023 Regina, Saskatchewan Walleye
37 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Alexandre Doucet C L22 2023 Saint-Denis-de-Brompton, Quebec Red Wings
4 Flag of the United States.svg Thomas Farrell D R25 2023 Mettawa, Illinois Walleye
13 Flag of the United States.svg Chase Gresock F R25 2023 Powell, Ohio Walleye
16 Flag of the United States.svg Brandon Hawkins RW R29 2021 Macomb Township, Michigan Walleye
23 Flag of the United States.svg Conlan Keenan C L28 2021 Webster, New York Walleye
28 Flag of the United States.svg Brandon Kruse LW L24 2023 Saline, Michigan Walleye
31 Flag of the United States.svg John Lethemon G L27 2022 Northville, Michigan Red Wings
67 Flag of the United States.svg Mitch Lewandowski LW L25 2023 Clarkston, Michigan Walleye
26 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Riley McCourt D L23 2022 St. Catharines, Ontario Walleye
15 Flag of the United States.svg Patrick McGrath RW R30 2023 Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Walleye
34 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Rylan Parenteau G L27 2023 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Walleye
29 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Darian Pilon LW L25 2023 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Walleye
10 Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Riley Sawchuk C R24 2023 Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Griffins
44 Flag of Finland.svg Antti Tuomisto D R23 2023 Pori, Finland Red Wings
27 Flag of Russia.svg Kirill Tyutyayev LW L23 2022 Yekaterinburg, Russia Walleye
6 Flag of the United States.svg Jake Willets D R24 2023 Erie, Michigan Walleye

Team captains

Head coaches

Team records

Updated August 12, 2021 [43]

Awards and honors

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Preceded by Professional ice hockey team in
Toledo, Ohio

2009–present
Succeeded by
Current team
Preceded by Brabham Cup champions
2014–15
2016–17
2021–22
Succeeded by
Missouri Mavericks
Florida Everblades
Idaho Steelheads