Carolina Thunderbirds (FHL)
The Carolina Thunderbirds are a minor league professional hockey team located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and play in the Federal Hockey League. Their home games are played at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex.
|City||Winston-Salem, North Carolina|
|League||Federal Hockey League|
|Home arena||Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex|
|Owner(s)||Barry Soskin (majority)|
Cary Ross, Rick Chaikin (minority)
|General manager||Scott Brand|
|Head coach||Andre Niec|
In August 2016, the Federal Hockey League announced that multiple FHL franchise owner Barry Soskin would place an expansion team in Winston-Salem for the 2017–18 FHL season. The team name was announced in September as the Carolina Thunderbirds after the former professional team that had last played in Winston-Salem in 1992. In June 2017, Berlin River Drivers head coach Andre Niec was hired as the Thunderbirds' inaugural head coach.
The team played their first game on October 27, 2017, against the Danville Dashers. The home opener was held on November 3 against the North Shore Knights, a 3–2 victory for the Thunderbirds in front of a sold-out crowd. On January 27, 2018, head coach Niec swung a hockey stick at an official after disagreeing with a call towards the end of a game with the league leading Port Huron Prowlers. The FHL then suspended Niec for 20 games and would be replaced by general manager Scott Brand on an interim basis. Brand would also be suspended for one game after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on February 16. Niec returned on March 3
On March 2, 2018, the Thunderbirds broke the single-season Federal Hockey League season attendance record and finished their inaugural season with a total attendance of 66,204 fans, 14,720 higher than the previous record. The third seed Thunderbirds hosted the second-seeded Watertown Wolves on April 13, 2018, in the playoff semifinals, the first playoff game played in the Triad in 10 years, but lost a close game in overtime. The Thunderbirds also lost the following night and were eliminated from of the playoffs, although the 3–2 loss to the Wolves in double overtime became the longest game in league history.
The Thunderbirds opened the 2018–19 season on October 26, 2018, at home against the Port Huron Prowlers with 4–3 win. The next night in another game against the Prowlers, head coach Niec was ejected again for arguing with the officials. He was subsequently suspended by the league again for six games (reduced to four), with personal trainer Karolina Huvarova taking over in the interim. Huvarova was reportedly the first European woman to coach a men's professional team.
|2017–18||56||25||24||5||2||87||.518||197||192||946||3rd||L, 0–2, Watertown Wolves||—|
- The FHL awards 3 points for a regulation time win, 2 points for an overtime win, and 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss
Forward of The YearEdit
- 2017–18: Josh Pietrantonio
Executive of The YearEdit
- 2017–18: Scott Brand
Broadcaster of The YearEdit
- 2017–18: Al Kessler
- "Staff - Carolina Thunderbirds". Thunderbirds. Archived from the original on September 9, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
- "Federal Hockey League games to be played at Annex". Winston-Salem Journal. March 7, 2017.
- "FHL Formally Approves Expansion to Winston-Salem, NC - Carolina Thunderbirds". Thunderbirds. August 19, 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-09-09.
- "THUNDERBIRDS NAME ANDRE NIEC HEAD COACH". FHL. June 5, 2017.
- "Thunderbirds Sellout Home Opener, Down Knights 3-2 - Carolina Thunderbirds". www.carolinathunderbirds.com. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
- "Carolina Thunderbirds coach suspended for actions after Sunday's game". Winston-Salem Journal. February 2, 2018.
- "Coach takes a swing at a referee with a hockey stick after disagreeing with a call". The Sports Network. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
- "THUNDERBIRDS STATEMENT REGARDING WEEKEND IN PORT HURON". Carolina Thunderbirds. January 31, 2018.
- "History of WS Hockey". Carolina Thunderbirds. August 28, 2018.
- "Niec suspended for six games by Federal Hockey League". Winston-Salem Journal. November 1, 2018.
- "Carolina Thunderbird 2017-18 Standings". carolinathunderbirds.com. Retrieved August 28, 2018.