Sunday, January 8, 2017

Saginaw Spirit (OHL, 2016-17)

2016-17 Regular Season
Spirit vs. Kitchener Rangers
     Hard to believe, this is the fifteenth season of Saginaw Spirit hockey. The Spirit are the longest-lasting team to ever play in Saginaw, with the next-oldest team being the IHL's Gears (1972-83). The Spirit's principal owner is still Dick Garber, but he has been joined by investors Brandon Bordeaux, Detroit Red Wings and Tigers executive Jimmy Devellano and former Wings goalie Chris Osgood. The Spirt have yet another new coach behind the bench: former ECHL coach Spencer Carbery.
     The Spirit got off to a horrendous start to the year, winning just 3 games out of 15, but have rebounded to get back into the playoff chase. This program was from the Saturday, November 26th game against the Kitchener Rangers. The Rangers won, 4-1, in front of 2,812 at Dow Event Center.
     This is a compact program, similar in dimensions to the Prowlers program. However, it's 87 pages thick, all on glossy paper and all in color. Most of the Spirit players and their billet families were photographed and included on several pages. Each team in the West Division is given their own full-page bio, and there's a Q&A section with Coach Carbery. Red Wings prospect Filip Hronek has a feature article as well. Local advertisements include Saginaw Valley State University, the Great Lakes Loons, the Temple Theater and United Way of Saginaw County.

Port Huron Prowlers (FHL, 2016-17)

2016-17 Regular Season
Prowlers vs. Cornwall Nationals
     The Prowlers entered their second season of play as the defending Commissioner's Cup Champions, the first pro hockey title in Port Huron since 1972. Head Coach Trevor Karasiewicz returned behind the bench for 2016-17, along with a few returning players from last year's championship team. Off the ice, attendance has gone up slightly, as the team averages about 982 per game, tops in the FHL (which doesn't say much).
     Per usual with the Federal Hockey League, there was offseason instability. The league lost the Dayton Demolition and Brewster Bulldogs, but saw the return of the Watertown Wolves after a one-season absence. The FHL also welcomed the St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints, Cornwall Nationals and Carolina Thunderbirds (who will start next season).
     This program is from the Friday, January 6th game between the Prowlers and Cornwall Nationals. In front of 1,036 fans, the Prowlers overcame a brutal start (2 Nats goals on two shots by the first 3:00) to win 5-3. Decent game, a little sloppy at times, but enjoyable. My tickets for the game, by the way, were free. Another fan was handing out spare tickets and Rob and I grabbed two of them.
     This game was also Karasiewicz's last game as Prowlers coach. In a bizarre move, owner Barry Soskin fired Karasiewicz on Saturday, offering no reason other than "it was time". While the Prowlers did get off to a slow start this year, they did just win a championship.
     Anyway, about the program. It's very similar to last year's edition. It's a compact program, with 22 pages, all in color and on glossy paper. The cover is nearly identical to last year's, expect for the championship logo. Two team photos of last year's championship team (postgame and formal) are included. Local advertisements include Tio Gordo's Cocina, Fuel Woodfire Grill, Blue Water Sports Bar and Grill and Aspen Dental.

Flint Firebirds (OHL, 2016-17)

2016-17 Regular Season
Firebirds vs. Saginaw Spirit
Hockey season's back, so here are the latest programs added to my massive collection.

     This program is from the Friday, December 30th game between the Flint Firebirds and the Saginaw Spirit. The Firebirds won, 3-2, in a hard-hitting, exciting game in front of 3,989 fans. Flint's Mathieu Henderson scored a beauty of a backhand goal in OT with just over 8 seconds left to give the Firebirds the win.
     After last year's off-ice nonsense, the OHL took control of the day-to-day operations of the Firebirds. They hired longtime OHL coach and general manager George Burnett as General Manager. Burnett's experience in junior hockey gave the Firebirds immediate credibility in the junior hockey world. He then hired North Bay assistant coach (and former Red Wings prospect) Ryan Oulahan as head coach, who in turn hired former Flyers prospect Eric Wellwood as his assistant. Despite their youth, Oulahan and Wellwood brought years of junior coaching experience to Flint.
     No need to go over all the stats, since the season is still going on. As of that game, Flint held the eighth and final playoff berth in the conference, just 4 points ahead of Saginaw.
     Now, for the program itself. It's a great-looking program, 64 pages, all in color and all on glossy paper. There are several articles about the team, including Firebirds that were drafted this past season, Burnett's hiring and trades that have been made. There's also an article about Flint's victory over Saginaw in the first "I-75 Divide" Series. Some of the articles were simply reprints from last year, which didn't make much sense. Local advertisements include Perani's Hockey World, Powers Catholic High School, Flint Farmers' Market and Sage Link Credit Union.