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Ernst to depart ECHL upon completion of Playoffs

Tuesday, May 21st
Ernst to depart ECHL upon completion of Playoffs

The ECHL announced on Monday that Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst will depart the League to accept a position as Vice President of Hockey Operations for Zawyer Sports & Entertainment. In this role, Ernst will oversee all aspects of the Zawyer Sports hockey operations department including establishing the strategic vision and philosophy for each of the organizations.

Ernst will begin his duties with Zawyer upon the completion of the 2024 Kelly Cup Finals.

Ernst has been involved with the ECHL for 33 of the 36 years of the League's existence, beginning when he was hired as a referee for the 1991-92 season. After spending 16 seasons as an on-ice official, which saw him work 1,061 regular-season games, nine Riley/Kelly Cup Finals series and one ECHL All-Star Game, he moved into a management role, first as Assistant Director of Officiating. He was named Vice President of Hockey Operations prior to the 2011-12 season and was promoted to Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations in 2018. Ernst was the first inductee in the Referee/Linesmen category in the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2011, and currently serves as co-chairman of the ECHL Hall of Fame Committee.

"I would first like to say thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Kelly who have been like a second father and mother to me throughout the years," Ernst said. "I wouldn’t be here without Mr. Kelly taking a chance on me as a referee. The last 33 years have been an amazing journey, starting as a 20-year-old kid refereeing his first game in Columbus, Ohio in 1991 to now being in the position I am with the league is crazy to comprehend.

"The lifelong friendships, the people, places and memories are what I take with me for the rest of my life. I never took my job for granted and poured everything that I had into making the ECHL the best it could be, even when the decisions weren’t always the most popular ones. I will always be from the ECHL, no matter what I do or where I go, the passion I have for the ECHL is something to cherish for my entire life.

"To Ryan Crelin, I appreciate the friendship and trust that you have in me. I cherish everything we have done together throughout our years. To the ECHL Office staff, both past and present, thanks for all your hard work behind the scenes that goes unnoticed and the friendships that we have made, especially Dan Petrino, Joe Babik, Stephen Thomson and Riley Yerkovich whom I have spent endless hours on the phone with throughout the years.

"To all the ECHL Governors/Owners, thank you for trusting me and keeping me around for all these years, even though some have expressed a different opinion. To all the on-ice officials past and present and to the officiating development staff, thank you for everything you do and have done for the ECHL. To the off-ice officials, thank you for all the countless hours you spend in arenas so that we can have a league. To the fans, thanks for all your support of the ECHL, without you we don’t have an ECHL," Ernst concluded.  

"We are thrilled to welcome Joe to the Zawyer Sports family. We have known Joe for several years and he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization. Throughout his career, Joe has proven himself as a winning-first, hockey mind and exemplifies the qualities that we look for in building a winning culture; integrity, work ethic and drive to provide the best results on the ice. As we continue to expand Zawyer Sports we want the best and Joe is truly the best! We are confident with Joe’s reputation throughout the hockey community and his vision for success will allow us to take Zawyer Sports to the next level.” 

"On behalf of my family, we are thrilled to join the Zawyer Sports organization and all of the incredible people," said Ernst. "I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity that lies ahead of me. The ownership group, staff, players and coaches have been amazing and understand what it takes to build the best-in-class operation.  

Zawyer Sports & Entertainment owns and operates the following organizations: 
Jacksonville Icemen 
Savannah Ghost Pirates 
Tahoe Knight Monsters 
Allen Americans 
Gastonia Baseball Club  
The Community First Igloo - Jacksonville, Florida 
32 Degrees Marketing - Jacksonville, Florida  

Also included in the Zawyer Sports family are the Atlanta Gladiators and Ghost Pirates Ice.  
 

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