ORLANDO, FL – The summer of 2017 has been quite the offseason for the Orlando Solar Bears. With the team already signing forwards Joe Perry, Chris Crane, and Austin Block, they have loaded up with some high octane, seasoned forwards who can be expected to put up points consistently.
In addition, Orlando’s AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies have acquired Matias Cleland, Joshua Winquist, Alex Gudbranson, and Kristian Pospisil, and the team has much to look forward to for the upcoming season with these young players, some of whom should see action in Orlando.
The Solar Bears’ most recent signing is Mike Monfredo, a rugged and scrappy veteran defenseman who has 339 games under his belt. While Monfredo comes from the Rapid City Rush, he has spent most of his pro career with the Quad City Mallards. Gudbranson and Cleland are also defensemen, and when you look at the overall lineup, you should anticipate an Orlando team ready to play physical hockey.
While all of this is good news, if Christmas was in July, here are some additional gifts which the Solar Bears would add to their wish list.
An actual goal horn
Ever since their founding, the Solar Bears have used a recording of a goal horn instead of an actual horn. With Southern Division opponents like South Carolina and Atlanta having real horns, it just doesn’t make sense for Orlando not to have one. While the recording they have now is significantly louder than the original they used, it is still a recording. Then again, the Chicago Wolves don’t use a goal horn, and their “horn” is one of the coolest in the game. If the Solar Bears were to consider installing a real horn at Amway, they could see about getting a sponsor from a business that uses horns on their conveyances—such as the Disney Cruise Line, Amtrak, or SunRail.
A friendly rivalry with the Jacksonville Icemen
Let’s face it—the Solar Bears/Everblades rivalry has been rough and even nasty. After last year’s heartbreaking elimination from the playoffs, there is likely to be great tension between the two teams. However, there may be some variety in rivalries next year, as the Sunshine State welcomes its third team, the Jacksonville Icemen. It would be quite unfortunate if the Florida rivalry trio ended up like the NHL’s California rivalry trio, which consists of the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks. This is one of the most notorious in-state rivalries, as all of the teams in the Golden State have a deep hatred for each other. The fanbases of Orlando and Jacksonville have already begun to discuss the upcoming season, so that’s a good sign. If the trend continues, we may see a different kind of healthy rivalry between Jacksonville and Orlando.
Advancing beyond round one in the playoffs
Another thing that the team would definitely wish for this upcoming season would be a further run into the playoffs. These past few seasons have seen the Solar Bears frustrated in their quest for the Kelly Cup. Last season, they came close, having a 3-1 series lead over the Everblades in the opening playoff round. However, they were unable to close the series out, as Florida would come back to take the series 4-3. This season, the Solar Bears hope to turn the tide and break the trend of first round playoff exits.
Signing Doherty and Massa
If the Solar Bears could manage to get veteran blueliner Taylor Doherty and spirited goalie Ryan Massa to return, they would have the foundation for an impressive defensive squad. The Colorado Eagles won the 2017 Kelly Cup on the back of it’s defense. Orlando should study the Eagles’ flight to glory and take some notes on what it takes to win in the ECHL.
Final Note: Shades visits Striker
The Solar Bears have been busy on the publicity and ticket sales fronts. On July 21-24, the organization made an appearance at Orlando’s new minor league baseball team, the Florida Fire Frogs. Not coincidentally, those games saw the Fire Frogs taking on the St. Lucie Mets who feature legendary University of Florida player and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in left field. The Solar Bears had an information tent set up, as well as promotional banners around the stadium, an announcement made by the Fire Frogs announcer, and mascot support from Shades.
Tebow has moved on from pro football and has decided to give baseball a shot by signing a minor league contract with the New York Mets. He has been faring well in the Florida State League (Class A – Advanced). The fans got to see him hit a home run on Sunday, and he scored the winning run on Monday night after getting on base by being hit by a pitch.
The Solar Bears were smart to capitalize on some of the Tebow magic which brought thousands of sports fans to Osceola County Stadium. Don’t be surprised to see the bizarre Fire Frog mascot Striker making a few visits to the Amway Center when the Solar Bears hit the ice.