River Rats Announce First ClassJanuary 13, 2010 - American Hockey League (AHL) Albany River Rats
"When we began this process there was plenty of conversation as to the long list of worthwhile candidates that have skated for our organization," said Garen Szablewski, the President/CEO. "Coach Cunniff, Geordie and Steve perfectly represent what Albany River Rats hockey should be and we look forward to 2011 when we announce another deserving Hall of Fame Class."
John Cunniff was named the second head coach in Albany River Rats history on May 14, 1996. He spent five seasons behind the Rats bench and concluded his tenure in the Capital District with a 187-165-39-20 regular season record, including two division championships (1996-97 & 1997-98). He stewarded the club to a 21-18 post-season mark with consecutive trips to the Conference Finals (1996-97 & 1997-98) and still holds the longest coaching tenure in team history. He passed away at Albany Memorial Hospital following a prolonged battle with cancer on May 9, 2002.
A native of South Boston, Cunniff was a member of the New Jersey Devils' organization for 13 years. Prior to guiding the organization's top prospects in Albany, he spent five years as a professional scout for the Devils. He joined New Jersey as an assistant coach on May 31, 1989 and was promoted to the position of head coach that November. He posted a 59-56-18 record in 133 games as the Devils' head coach. Before joining New Jersey, Cunniff spent three seasons with the Boston Bruins as an assistant to head coach Terry O'Reilly. Prior to his time in Boston, he spent five seasons in the Hartford Whalers organization, including a year and a half as head coach of the Binghamton Whalers - Hartford's American Hockey League affiliate. Cunniff began his coaching career in 1975-76 as coach and general manager of the Cape Cod franchise in the now-defunct North American Hockey League (NAHL). A veteran of international hockey competition, Cunniff made his record-tying third appearance as an assistant coach with the silver medal-winning 2002 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team in February 2002. He was also an assistant coach for Team USA during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan and an associate coach for the 1994 U.S. Olympic Team. Cunniff was named the 1998 Walter Yaciuk Award Winner for his outstanding contribution to USA Hockey's coaching education program and also served as an assistant to Ron Wilson for Team USA in the first-ever World Cup Tournament in the summer of 1996, helping guide the Americans to a gold medal victory over Canada. In addition, Cunniff was an assistant for three U.S. National Teams (1991, 1992, 1993) and two U.S. National Junior Teams (1992, 1993). He was also an assistant coach for Team USA in the 1981 Canada Cup. John Cunniff was posthumously awarded the USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award presented annually to a U.S. citizen judged to have made hockey his/her profession and also made outstanding contributions, on or off the ice, to the sport in America.
Geordie Kinnear is currently in his seventh season as an assistant coach with the Albany River Rats and third full season working for the Carolina Hurricanes organization. He also spent the 2006-07 season serving as a part time assistant and special consultant for the River Rats during their first year as Carolina's top minor-league affiliate. Kinnear began his coaching career when he joined the Albany River Rats coaching staff in August of 2001, after retiring as an active player following an eight-year professional career. He worked for the New Jersey Devils organization from 2001-2006, serving as Albany's assistant coach for four seasons and working as a special assignment scout with the Devils during the 2004-05 campaign. After playing three seasons of junior hockey for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, Kinnear was drafted by New Jersey in the seventh round (162nd overall) of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. An original River Rat, he skated with Albany for the first six years of his eight-year professional career (1993-94 to 1998-99), helping them reach the playoffs every year. Over that time, Kinnear was a member of the River Rats' 1995 Calder Cup championship team, was selected to four consecutive AHL All-Star Classics (1995-1999) and served as Albany's captain for three seasons (1996-1999). In August of 1999 Kinnear signed with the Atlanta Thrashers as a free agent, making his National Hockey League debut by appearing in four games with Atlanta; he split the 1999-2000 season between Atlanta and the Thrashers' IHL affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears. After starting the 2000-01 season with Orlando, he was traded back to New Jersey on November 6, 2000 and he played 14 games with Albany before being forced to retire due to injury in December of 2000. Kinnear currently ranks second on Albany's All-Time lists for games played (406) and penalty minutes (1,094), while ranking third All-Time in plus/minus (+79).
Steve Sullivan was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the Ninth Round (233rd overall) of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. In three seasons with the River Rats, the 5'9" 155-pound center posted 171 points (72 goals, 99 assists) in 143 games. His time in the Capital District was highlighted by the 1995 Calder Cup Championship, where the diminutive pivot notched 11 (4-7) points in 14 games to help the River Rats to the title. "Sully" earned AHL First Team All-Star honors during the 1995-96 campaign, recording 75 (33-42) points in just 53 games with the River Rats. He was part of a Robbie Ftorek-led club that turned in a then-AHL record 54 victories before falling to the upstart Cornwall Aces in the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. His energetic style and artful moves earned him a special place in River Rats lore along with fan adoration before his eventual stay in New Jersey, which ended the following year. He was traded in the 1996-97 season to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he spent three seasons before joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 1999. In 200-01 he posted a career high 75 points (34 goals, 41 assists) in 81 NHL games. Sullivan was traded to the Nashville Predators and he's been with the organization ever since. After sitting out the entire 2007-08 NHL season because of a back injury, Sullivan made a comeback in 2009 and was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Sullivan still ranks second in franchise history with a +83 plus/minus rating, eighth with 72 goals and 171 points, while standing in a 10th place tie with 99 assists.
River Rats 2009-10 pro-rated season and flexible ticket packages are now on sale at the River Rats executive offices at the Times Union Center, by calling (518) 487-2244 or by logging onto www.albanyriverrats.com.
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