WATERLOO, ONT- Everyone in hockey circles know that this was a season to forget in Flint. I’ am not here to open up old wounds though. What happened last season for the most part is over, now it’s time to move on.
The Flint Firebirds continue to be the first and for the most part only team that comes up when relocation talks happen. Many believe that the team should relocate to Belleville and at one time I agreed. Not because I don’t want Flint to have a team but because one of the best playoff series I ever watched involved Kitchener and Belleville and It hurt watching a community lose a team. Thus why I want the Firebirds to remain in Flint.
I went to my first game in Flint in March. Happened to be the last game of the year. A 5-3 Guelph Storm win. The arena is actually quite nice. It will have to be replaced one day but for an older building (Opened In 1969) it was really maintained properly. Although I’ll never understand the hot tub in the arena. I really enjoyed the arena though, met some great fans and really saw the potential for hockey in Flint. You can check out the facilities by clicking here .
In the lobby on game day’s, or at least when I was there, someone was playing the piano and that was a nice different welcoming touch. Something you don’t see very often in the O.
Now onto the personal. OHL Commissioner Dave Branch handed Rolf Nilsen a 5 year suspension from from being involved directly or indirectly with hockey operations of the Firebirds effective immediately and will also have to pay $250,000 fine to the league. As far as we know, based off what Nilsen said, he plans to honor the suspension.
Statement from Rolf Nilsen, Owner Flint Firebirds Hockey Club.
— Flint Firebirds (@FlintFirebirds)
Onto the General Manager. The Flint Firebirds Hired George Burnett. A man well respected in the OHL. Burnett has been around the OHL for a long time. He played 200+ games for the Knights in the 80’s and put up nearly a point a game. Also spent a season as a head coach in the NHL with the Oilers. Burnett is someone who will attract young talent. A great hire by Flint.
Ryan Oulahen was brought in as the head coach and In my opinion was the best choice. Ryan spent the last 5 seasons with his former Junior team the North Bay Battalion, although Ryan played for them while they were in Brampton. Ryan also spent time with the Grand Rapids Griffins playing four full seasons in the AHL before Calling it quits. With Flint being a fairly young team, and in a rebuild, Ryan who is only 31 years of age will be a positive figure in that change room.
Flint Firebirds name Ryan Oulahen head coach, Eric Wellwood associate coach
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet)
Eric Wellwood was brought onto the coaching staff as well. Eric spent the past two seasons with the Oshawa Generals and was a vital part of that coaching staff that won the MasterCard Memorial Cup. Eric played four seasons in the OHL and was a huge part of the back to back memorial cups. Eric also spent some time in the NHL and had a very promising stint with the Philadelphia Flyers that saw him put up 9 points in 24 games and played another 11 in the playoffs. But an unfortunate injury forced Eric to retire. The OHL Fanboys had Eric on and you can listen to his segment here-
Ep 23 is here!
Steve talks with assistant coach
Meanwhile Brian & Steve talk fighting
— OHL Fanboys Podcast (@ohlfanboys)
Recruitment was going to be a pretty big issue moving forward as prospects around the draft made it known that if drafted, they will not report. Pretty much forcing flint to really do research on who they were going to take in the 1st round. The Firebirds end up selecting Ty Dellandrea with the 5th pick in the draft. OTSN actually had Ty going 3rd overall so for him to fall to 5th is a huge get for the Firebirds. Ty has officially committed to the Firebirds. Although he is just one player, I expect this to be the 1st of many.
Flint Firebirds announce that their first round pick Ty Dellandrea has committed to the team. Great news considering all that's happened,
— Mark Scheig (@THWMark)
Flint has done a great job trying to work past all the bull crap that happened last season. They brought in a very young and quite honestly an inexperienced coaching staff, but a coaching staff with a ton of potential. A coaching staff young enough that they will be able to relate to the players.
Don’t get me wrong, Flint has a long way to go. A lot of what has happened over the last year is still fresh, but the moves made this off season and the commitment of their 1st round pick is huge moving forward. Like I said before, I feel like more prospects will start committing. The City of Flint has done a great job embracing this team, The OHL has done a great job in bringing in great coaching talent and other off ice employees. The recipe for success is there. And if i’m a prospect who had concerns, In my opinion, I think you should really give Flint a chance. The opportunity to do something special is now. Forget the water stuff and the crime rate. Towns in Ontario have had a water crisis before and they didn’t crash and burn to the ground. They pulled together and got through it like Flint will. The crime rate thing actually bugs me, it may be a fact but as Bill Burr once said your chances of drowning instantly increase once you get a pool yet millions of people around the USA swim daily in their backyards and they are still alive. Although those are 2 huge things, crime happens everywhere.
The Firebirds are back on the road to success. This off season has been busy and promising and is far from over. I think fans can expect a few trades and a few more top prospect signings. Be very excited Firebirds fans. These next few years are going to be fun.
If you are a Firebirds fan and don’t have season tickets you should really look into getting them. I had season tickets in Mississauga and Hamilton and will be getting them when I move back down home with the Windsor Spitfires. It’s the best value for your buck and no entertainment in the area is better.
Flint Firebirds 2016-17 Season Tickets are on sale now! Click here for Early Bird pricing:
— Flint Firebirds (@FlintFirebirds)
Get out and support the boys and buy a jersey! I for one can’t wait to add a Firebirds jersey to my collection!
Thanks for reading the article hockey fans and hope the off season is going well. My Fiancee gave me a free pass to write this article as I am supposed to be prepping for our Buck and Doe which is less than 24 hours away. For any Flint fans who want to meet, shoot me an email and when I am in town at a game we will meet up. The best part about doing OHL road trips is meeting other die hard fans.
@SebJackson90 on Twitter