SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Ben Birnell, sports reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, has been selected as the recipient of the James H. Ellery Memorial Award for the 2017-18 season.
The James H. Ellery Memorial Award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding media coverage of the American Hockey League. It was first presented in 1964-65 and honors the late Jim Ellery, who served the AHL for 17 years as league secretary and publicity director until his death in 1964.
The Observer-Dispatch’s Utica Comets beat writer – in addition to myriad other assignments – Birnell provides his readers with above-and-beyond coverage of the Comets and the American Hockey League, routinely seeking out stories pertaining to the organization’s efforts on and off the ice. His stories provide the club with a regular presence on the pages of the O-D, and are supplemented with frequent team and league updates on Twitter (@OD_Comets). Most notably last season, Birnell led the O-D’s extensive coverage of the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, as well as the renovation projects at the historic Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Former Comets broadcaster Brendan Burke was named the 2014-15 James H. Ellery Award winner for his contributions in building the Comets' brand as well as his coverage of the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic as well as the 2015 Calder Cup run.
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.