Andre Niec returns for fourth season behind the bench

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.- The Carolina Thunderbirds, proud members and defending western division champions of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, announced Tuesday afternoon that head coach Andre Niec will return for the 2020-2021 season.

“The Thunderbirds are glad to have Andre Niec back, as one of the winningest coaches in league history, we know he has great things in store for our organization,” said majority owner Barry Soskin.

Niec tied Phil Esposito for most all-time FPHL wins after defeating Columbus 9-3 on March 8 before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season prematurely. Of his 147 career victories, Niec has won 114 with the Carolina Thunderbirds, including an FPHL Commissioner’s Cup championship in 2019.

“Andre has been a day one presence who has brought intensity and leadership to our group,” said general manager Kelly Curl. “We look forward to him being able to coach and develop our players to reach the best of their potential.”

Curl, who was hired in May, played his entire professional career under Niec and dressed for the championship win two seasons ago.

“We have unfinished business, after being the best team in the league last year, we are pushing hard for another championship,” said Niec.

Before assuming the head coaching role in Carolina, Niec was the bench boss for the Berlin River Drivers. Niec drug Berlin to a runner-up finish in the Commissioner’s Cup final in 2017 before a game-five-loss to Danville.

Niec has made the playoffs every year he has coached in the FPHL.

A native of Ostrava, Czech Republic, Niec enjoyed a long playing career in Austria, England, France, Czech Republic and the United States. He scored the first professional goal in Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, Ill.,  a building that will host a new FPHL next season.

In the FPHL. Niec has logged 50 assists and 11 goals in 55 games played.

The Carolina Thunderbirds are excited for the 2020-2021 season. While the box office and team office remain closed to the public, plans are rapidly being made for this coming year. Fans can stay up-to-date on all things Thunderbirds via the team’s social media pages and the official team website