The Wheeling Nailers are the ECHL Affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was previously the Cornwall Aces before they became Pittsburgh's affiliate in 1996.
Official Wheeling Nailers Website: http://www.wheelingnailers.com/
One of the oldest low-minor league hockey teams, the franchise began play in 1982 in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League as the Carolina Thunderbirds based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The team, along with the Virginia Lancers, joined the All-American Hockey League in 1987, which lasted just the 1987–88 season, after which the Thunderbirds, Lancers, and Johnstown Chiefs formed the basis for the modern ECHL, of which the Thunderbirds won the first ECHL playoff championship, then known as the Jack Riley Cup, defeating the Johnstown Chiefs, 4-3 for the 1988–89 season. They became the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds in 1990 and moved to Wheeling in 1992 under the leadership of President and co-owner Ed Broyhill.
After a trademark dispute with the junior league Seattle Thunderbirds, the club became the Nailers for the 1996–97 season when the franchise held a contest open to local fans, which was won by C. J. Wickham of Steubenville, Ohio. The name "Nailers" was chosen for the city's long history of nail manufacturing. The team colors are black, red, and Vegas gold.
The team plays at the WesBanco Arena (formerly the Wheeling Civic Center). After missing the playoffs for five straight seasons, they had a 106-point season in 2003–04. They were defeated by the Reading Royals in 5 games, 3-2. In season 2005–06 they had a great season making it to the second round of the playoffs losing to Toledo in the final second of the final game.
The Nailers main rival inside the ECHL is the Johnstown Chiefs, and both teams have been rivals for 21 seasons, counting the ACHL year before they became the ECHL. At the beginning of the 2007–08 season, opening night featured the two teams wearing 1988–89 era jerseys to celebrate the 20th ECHL season.
|Season||Preliminary||1st round||2nd round||3rd round||Kelly Cup finals|
|1992–93||—||Bye||W, 3-1, Johnstown||W, 4-2, Raleigh||L, 2-4, Toledo|
|1993–94||—||W, 2-0, Nashville||W, 3-1, Hampton||L, 0-3, Toledo||—|
|1994–95||—||L, 0-3, Birgmingham||—||—||—|
|1996–97||—||L, 0-3, Peoria||—||—||—|
|1997–98||—||W, 3-2, Dayton||W, 3-1, Toledo||L, 2-4, Hampton||—|
|1998–99||Out of playoffs|
|1999–2000||Out of playoffs|
|2000–01||Out of playoffs|
|2001–02||Out of playoffs|
|2002–03||Out of playoffs|
|2003–04||—||L, 2-3, Reading||—||—||—|
|2004–05||Out of playoffs|
|2005–06||—||W, 3-1, Reading||L, 2-3, Toledo||—||—|
|2006–07||Out of playoffs|
|2007–08||Out of playoffs|
- David Aebischer - Phoenix Coyotes goaltender
- Paul Bissonnette - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins left winger / defenseman
- Stephan Brannare - holds Nailers records for most games played with team (231) and most PIM (677)
- Daniel Carcillo - Philadelphia Flyers left winger
- Joe Exter - came back from 10 day coma to play two seasons with Nailers.
- Craig Hillier - former first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins
- Jason Jaffray - Vancouver Canucks left winger
- David Koci - Tampa Bay Lightning left winger
- Zenon Konopka - Norfolk Admirals forward
- Peter Laviolette - former Carolina Hurricanes head coach
- Francois Leroux - 9 year NHL career with 4 teams. Former MAHL Commissioner.
- Kurtis McLean - New York Islanders center
- Michel Ouellet - Vancouver Canucks right winger
- Cam Paddock - St. Louis Blues center
- Dany Sabourin - Springfield Falcons goaltender
- Tomas Vokoun - Florida Panthers goaltender
- Tim Wallace - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins right winger
- Alain Lemieux - Mario Lemieux's Brother - Former coach