FPHL announces season start, Carolina to play on the road all season

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.- The Carolina Thunderbirds, proud members of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, have announced that they will play a shortened 2021 season.

“We had an opportunity to do right by our fans and our partners to be able to play a season this year, and it was something that I felt strongly we needed to do for our team and the community,” said majority owner Barry Soskin.

The FPHL will field four teams in the league this year, the Elmira Enforcers, Port Huron Prowlers, Columbus River Dragons, and Carolina.

The current schedule has Carolina opening play in Elmira on March 3. The Thunderbirds are tentatively slated to play 22 games.

“On behalf of the Thunderbirds, we wanted to help our partners and fans be able to enjoy a balanced and completed season this year and with this number of games we hope all fans get a chance to enjoy a form of Thunderbirds hockey this season,” said general manager Kelly Curl.

Due to capacity restrictions, the Thunderbirds will not host any home games this season at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex. All 22 of Carolina’s currently scheduled games will be played at McMorran Arena (Port Huron, Mich.), First Arena (Elmira, N.Y.) and the Columbus Civic Center (Columbus, Ga.).

“Our supporter base in Winston-Salem is the heartbeat of our organization. I know these fans want to be there in person and it’s just not possible this season, but Kelly and his team in the front office is going to find a way to put you in a position to enjoy this team this season,” said Soskin.

The Thunderbirds will be launching full TV-style broadcast over the ThunderbirdsTV YouTube channel this season. These broadcasts will be available to watch with the play-by-play voice of the Thunderbirds, Drew Blevins, hosting every one.

“We’re lucky to have a guy like Drew who has the technical knowledge and the vocal capabilities to be an ambassador for our team on the air,” said Curl.

“This is an undertaking to take the show on the road and bring the games back to our great fans,” said Blevins, “It’s been great to work with Kelly and our ownership to design and implement an accessible product that foregrounds our team and I do hope everyone enjoys what we bring to the table.”

Please stay tuned to the Thunderbirds social media sites for more information in the coming days regarding broadcasts, team roster updates and more general information.

Carolina finished the 2019-2020 regular season at the top of the FPHL standings when the season was cancelled. With 33 wins the Thunderbirds were the only team to eclipse 30 regular season victories and were the only team in the league with more than 100 standings points (108).

Elmira finished second in the East Division in win percentage last season, but accrued the most standings points in the division (96). The Enforcers won the East in 2018-2019 before falling to Carolina in the Commissioners Cup final, three games to one.

Port Huron finished at a respectable 28-14-0-4 mark last year, good for second in the West Division. The Prowlers spent most of the year shorthanded due to a rash of injuries but finished the year in a prime playoff position.

Columbus, one of the league’s newest teams, finished fourth in the West Division last season. The team parted ways with inaugural head coach Gary Gill before the midway mark of the season and tabbed former Columbus tough guy Jerome Bechard as the head coach. The River Dragons completed the year at 18-21-6-1.

The Thunderbirds had a winning record against all participating organizations last season, going 3-0-1 against Elmira, 2-0 against Port Huron, and 4-1-1 against Columbus.