Thunderbirds head coach Andre Niec to join Florida Panthers as European scout

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Carolina Thunderbirds announced Thursday evening that head coach Andre Niec will be leaving the team to join the NHL’s Florida Panthers as a European scout.

“I couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of the culture that Andre has created in Carolina,” said Thunderbirds general manager Kelly Curl. “He demanded the most out of his players and staff, and his record shows the excellence that followed. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that Andre gave me to win a professional championship and cherish the memories he helped create.”

Niec has been the only FPHL head coach in Carolina Thunderbirds history, guiding the team to a Commissioner’s Cup championship in 2019. That same season, Niec was named the FPHL’s Coach of the Year. His all-time coaching record of 156-42-13 makes him the most successful FPHL coach in the last five years.

“He leaves an incredibly tough pair of shoes to fill,” said Thunderbirds majority owner Barry Soskin. “We could not have picked a better head coach with which to start our team. His record speaks for itself, but just as important was the way he grew our players.”

Apart from an illustrious FPHL coaching career that saw championship runs in both Carolina and Berlin, Niec also enjoyed a lengthy playing career in Austria, England, the United States, France, and his native Czech Republic. He even suited up for a handful of games as a player-coach during his time in Carolina.

“I am very excited to get the chance to work for the Florida Panthers, it is something special to be a part of the NHL,” said Niec. “I am happy to be home [in the Czech Republic]. I have many beautiful memories from the first day in Winston Salem to the last, and I want to thank all the fans for four great years.”

Thunderbirds part owner Cary Ross would go on to add, “This is the house that Andre built. We wish him the best of luck, and he will be dearly missed in Winston-Salem.”

For the first time in franchise history, the Carolina Thunderbirds are searching for a new head coach.