|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Neil Little Selected to Phantoms Hall of Fame
Goaltender to be Honored April 7, 2006
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
By Mike Thornton
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia Phantoms COO Frank Miceli announced today that goaltender Neil Little, an original member of the Phantoms who played for the franchise in eight of its first nine years, has been named as the third member of the Philadelphia Phantoms Hall of Fame. Little will be inducted in a pre-game ceremony on Friday, April 7 when the Phantoms host the Hershey Bears at 7:05 at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Little, 34, holds the distinction of being the only Phantom to play for both Calder Cup championship teams. He was drafted by the Flyers in the 11th round (226th overall) of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft and played in Hershey during the Bears last two years of serving as the Philadelphia's AHL affiliate. He moved to the Phantoms, along with the rest of Philadelphia's prospects, in 1996-97 and backstopped the club to its first Calder Cup championship a year later.
The Phantoms 1997-98 Calder Cup run featured a vintage performance from Little. Coming off the second of his two consecutive 31-win seasons for the Phantoms, Little had 15 victories in the 1998 playoffs, including an AHL playoff high three shutouts and a playoff best 2.41 goals against average. His all-time Phantom playoff totals reflect five shutouts in 52 games, with an equally impressive 2.33 GAA.
Bill Barber, a member of the Phantoms, Flyers and Hockey Halls of Fame, was behind the Phantoms bench for the organization's first four seasons and recalled Little's impact on and off the ice. "Litts was instrumental in us winning the '98 Calder Cup. He's a great athlete, a true professional, a team player and was an absolute pleasure to coach. I can't speak highly enough about him. He brought the organization a championship and we were fortunate to have him."
After spending the 1998-99 campaign in Grand Rapids, Little returned to Philadelphia for the next five seasons. Following the team's second Calder Cup championship a year ago, Little chose to spend the 2005-06 season pursuing his dream of playing in Europe. In online voting during the summer of 2005, Little was voted by the fans as the first-team goaltender on the Philadelphia Phantoms All-Decade Team.
The Alberta native's name is dotted throughout the Phantoms record book, having made 351 regular season appearances in net for the Phantoms and logging over 19,754 minutes. His 177 wins as a Phantom will stand as a seemingly unconquerable mark, while his 18 shutouts are tops as well. Two of those whitewashes came in memorable back-to-back efforts in Quebec. During the 2001 set with the Citadelles, he totaled 73 saves.
Little was known for his feisty play between the pipes and his reputation for never backing down from a challenge on the ice. Two altercations are among the memorable moments outside the crease in Little's career - a May 3, 1997 fight with Hershey goaltender Sinuhe Wallinheimo, and a line brawl with the Binghamton Senators on December 28, 2003 in which Little skated the length of the ice and dove onto a pile of players while going after Senators goalie Ray Emery.
2005 Phantoms Hall of Fame inductee Frank Bialowas recalled his seasons with Little fondly, saying, "He's one of the best team guys I ever played with, and he was always a real pleasure to be around. If anyone deserves this honor, it's Litts."
The ever-popular Philadelphia fixture has been voted the Phantoms Fans Choice Award winner five times, has been a Phantoms nomination as AHL Man of the Year for community and charitable work and has also been a club representative at the AHL All-Star Classic.
"I cannot express how humbled and proud I am to be honored by the Phantoms in this capacity," said Little. "I can only think of this gesture as a wonderful privilege, and a testament to the superb memories I have from playing in this great city. My most sincere thanks to all of my teammates, coaches, doctors, and staff, who have made this occasion possible."
Phantomshockey.com has a special posting of video and images from Little's career. The site will be updated with photos and audio of the induction on April 7.
The Phantoms next take to the ice this Friday night at 7:05 PM, as they host the Albany River Rats on Photo Night. Sunday at 5:05 PM, with the Portland Pirates in town, the first 4,000 fans through the turnstiles will receive a bobblehead honoring Phantoms Head Coach John Stevens.