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2 Firebirds Staff Directory 22 Flint Firebirds & NHL
Pathway to NHL Dream

4 Firebirds Owner Rolf Nilsen

Passion for Hockey, Belief in Flint 26 Coach Oulahen
Goals and Rewards

6 Welcome to Firebirds Hockey!

Costa Papista, President 28 Assistant Coaches
Experience and Passion

8 Letter from Congressman Dan Kildee

Fifth Congressional District of Michigan 32 Firebird Player Profiles
Meet the 2017/2018 Team

10 Letter from Ted Baker

OHL Vice President 48 Hosting a Firebird
More than Hockey

12 Letter from Vicki Hawkins

Dort Federal Credit Union 52 Community Involvement
Making an Impact

14 Letter from Kevin Ward & Robert Perani

Perani’s Hockey World 54 2017 OHL Draft Picks
Top Picks Flock to Flint

16 Terry Christensen
Flint Firebirds Vice President 58 I-75 Divide Cup
The Rivarly Heats Up

17 Barclay Branch
Flint Firebirds General Manager 60 FUNdraising Opportunities!
Ticket Voucher Program

20 Genesee Packaging
Sponsor Spotlight 62 Flint Iceland Arenas
Practice and Family Fun

Contents and Directory-Sept 2017.indd 1 9/15/17 11:18 AM

Firebirds Staff Directory
Executive Team Hockey Operations
Governor Rolf Nilsen VP of Hockey Operations & General Manager Barclay Branch
President Costa Papista Assistant GM & Director of Player Development Joe Stefan
Vice President Terry Christensen Head Coach Ryan Oulahen
Associate Coach Paul Flache
Front Office
Assistant Coach & Video Coordinator Scott MacDonald
Director, Finance & Accounting Monika Kronenberger
Goaltending Coach Greg Stefan
Director, Broadcasting & Communications Dominic Hennig
Head Athletic Trainer Alex Covers, AT, ATC
Business Development, Ticket Sales Dominic Gutierrez
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach James Malechek, MS, CSCS
Events Coordinator Karla Turner
Sports Psychology Coach Michael P. Stacey II, MS
Game Day Operations Manager Katie Roe
Head Equipment Manager Mike Hildenbrand
Video Production Manager Jenna Sztuczko
Academic Advisor Nathan Riek
Digital Content Coordinator Jimmy Metiva
Host Family Coordinator Meredith Hamo
Communications & Public Relations Intern Mitchell Miller
In-Game Arena Host Ashley VanOchten
Graphic Design Intern Melissa Filimon Medical Staff
Team Photographer Danen Williams Head Athletic Trainer Alex Covers, AT, ATC
Team Photographer Ron Crichton Head Orthopedic Physician Dr. Matthew C. Sardelli, MD
Team Orthopedic Physician Dr. Aaron Wynkoop, MD
Scouting Team Orthopedic Physician Dr. Hussein Saghir, DO
Head Scout Dave McParlan Head In-Game Physician Dr. James Walter, MD
Scout Kyle Branch In-Game Physician Dr. Teresa Sherman, MD
Scout Derek Langlois Head Team Dentist Dr. Mark Knight, DDS
Scout Joe McCann Team Dentist Dr. Ashley Hankinson, DDS
Scout Mike Oliverio Emergency Response Team Mobile Medical Response (MMR)
Scout Garrett Rutledge
Scout Tom Watson
Dort Federal Event Center Management
General Manager Jeremy Torrey
CONTACT Business & Box Office Manager Mary Nagy
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club Concessions Manager Shamika Roots
3501 Lapeer Rd. Flint, MI 48503 Operations Manager Gary Foerster
Firebirds Reception: 810.742.2004 Lead Ice Technician John Arndt
Bar Supervisor Kim Skellenger
Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center
810. 744.0580 Fax: 810.744.2906 Head Usher Larry Webb

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Rolf Nilsen’s Successful Business
Career and Passion for Ice Hockey

to the top of a mountain, let alone landing a perfect jump from it. Not
Nilsen – he loved the thrill and risk it took to be successful. Even in
bandy. Though it wasn’t ice hockey, there were many similarities and this
is where his passion for our game began. He now plays ice hockey on a
regular basis and is currently a member of the Detroit Red Wings Alumni
Hockey Team, playing benefit games with them on a regular basis.
Like most athletes, the competitive spirit in sport usually serves
them well later in life. In Nilsen’s case, it helped him develop and
create one of the world’s most successful marine solution companies,
IMS AS, which is based in Norway. His North American company,
IMS Inc., is based in Cape Coral, Florida where he currently resides.
Along with Norway and Florida, Nilsen also has companies in
Germany, Singapore, China and Vietnam.
In December 2014, Nilsen purchased the Dort Federal Event
Center and was immediately in the market to acquire a hockey team

ow does a captain of the massive ships we see on our to play there. Initially, there was interest in the USHL, but when the
beautiful Great Lakes end up in Flint, Michigan? How opportunity arose to purchase an OHL franchise, he moved quickly
does a person who has sailed the world become the to negotiate a deal with the owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes
owner of the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center, Flint and the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, Peter Karmanos, Jr. With local
Iceland Arenas and the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds? support and help from the City of Flint, the Flint & Genesee Chamber
The answer is simple: hard work, passion and determination to of Commerce and local politicians, the sale was approved by the OHL
fulfill a lifelong dream. Board of Governors and Flint became one of only three U.S. cities to
Rolf Nilsen grew up in a small town on the coast of Southern Norway. boast an OHL franchise.
His family has always been involved in the marine industry, beginning Immediately, Nilsen began making capital improvements to the
with his great grandfather who was a captain and owner of a sailship in facility to make it more fan-friendly, with the intentions of also turning
the late 1800s. His Grandfather was a sailor and a World War II veteran it into one of the premier player-training facilities in all of Junior
and his father was also a sailor. Rolf naturally gravitated to the marine Hockey. In just the first year, he invested more than $4 million for new
industry, as well, but like most kids growing up, he had a love for sport hockey boards and glass, a new scoreboard at center ice with high-
and the competitive spirit to be successful. definition video screens on all four sides, and added new LED lighting
The Alpine skiing events are probably the most notable sports to take for a better fan viewing experience and TV game production. Under
place in Norway today. Since his youth, Nilsen really enjoyed ski-jumping the management of Dort Federal Event Center General Manager,
and bandy – a game played on a frozen soccer field where opponents try Jeremy Torrey, the players arrived for their first season in Flint to find
to score by shooting a ball into the opposing team’s goal with a bowed a new, pro-style locker room with a video theater for viewing game
stick – as his sports of choice. Most of us would have a hard time climbing film, a player’s lounge, and a state-of-the art weight room for off-ice


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conditioning. Additionally, when NHL Scouts and out-of-town media saw the new
suite located in the northwest corner of the event center, many stated that Flint now
has one of the OHL’s best viewing areas to watch a game.
Since he took over, Nilsen has not stopped investing into the building and has
more plans to continue enhancing the Event Center to make it a destination facility
in the region. In year two, the main arena’s bathrooms were refurbished. Nilsen also
began the renovation process of the Event Center’s second arena, a 30,000 square-
foot space that is utilized for many events each year, such as trade shows, expos,
banquets, concerts and field sports. The second arena received a complete makeover
with the addition of LED lighting and a fresh coat of paint on the bleacher seats,
walls and ceiling. Nilsen and Torrey are planning to refinish the floor to complete
the second arena’s full renovation.
This past summer, energy conservation was a main focus, as Nilsen made the
necessary investment to upgrade to LED lighting throughout the entire Dort Federal
Event Center. Also, the two suites and Blue Line Club were renovated with new
furniture and refrigerators. Video technology was enhanced, as new HD cameras
were installed with the addition of a closed-circuit TV feed of the game production for
the Firebirds’ locker room, suites, club level and concession stands. The Event Center
box office and administrative offices were completely revamped, including installing
granite countertops while upgrading the ceiling, floor and walls. Additionally, Nilsen
had a new concrete staircase from the main parking lot installed, creating a more
decorative and aesthetically appealing building entrance. In terms of hockey additions,
Nilsen purchased a new, electronic Zamboni with a state-of-the-art laser-leveling
system to enhance ice quality, as well as a new skate-sharpener, a skate-profiler and an
industrial sewing machine for the Firebirds.
All the above improvements have made it possible for the Flint Firebirds to draft
and recruit the best players available. Also, the arena now can bring several family
entertainment shows and exhibitions to the Dort Federal Event Center. Just like the
City of Flint, the Dort Federal Event Center is rebuilding itself, and people from outside
Flint and Genesee County are taking notice.
As the facility improves, the Flint Firebirds have improved, as well. Nilsen was
very happy to see his team compete in the 2017 OHL Playoffs and looks forward to
watching their continued improvement throughout the 2017-18 Season.
“Although we lost some very good players, our scouting staff has had two very good
Priority Selection Drafts,” Nilsen said. “We now are building our team through the
draft, and I am very confident that our Head Coach, Ryan Oulahen, and his staff will
continue the great job they have done to develop our players.”
As the Flint Firebirds move into their third year, Nilsen wants to continue his pledge
to support the community and the local non-profit organizations. In just their first two
seasons in Flint, the Firebirds have raised more than $200,000 for charities.
“People are supporting the Firebirds, which I really appreciate, and we will do
everything we can to support them and give back to our community,” Nilsen adds.
Because of Rolf Nilsen, the City of Flint and Genesee County have an internationally
competitive team in a premiere league that we can call ours: the Flint Firebirds. ■

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Dear Fans,

Welcome to the 3rd season of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, presented by

Perani’s Hockey World!

Thank you for attending tonight’s game at the newly renovated Dort
Federal Event Center. The Ontario Hockey League has made its mark
on Flint and the Firebirds will continue to be the winter entertainment
destination for Genesee County and the entire region today, and for
years to come.

The support from season ticketholders, sponsors, community leaders

and fans like you has been overwhelming. This support has been
critical in making elite level hockey in Flint and Genesee County a
reality. Thank you for your trust, commitment and investment in our
exciting sports and entertainment project.

The OHL is the world’s premiere player development league, one of three leagues based in Canada and the United
States that comprise the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). The CHL is designed for elite student athletes aged 16 to
20 whom are on a fast track for professional hockey careers. Seventy percent of the players competing in the National
Hockey League today are CHL alumni. Notable OHL alumni include Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid, Bobby Orr,
Mickey Redmond, Brendan Shanahan, Bob Probert and Steve Yzerman.

As you enjoy the game tonight, please take a look around the arena to appreciate the companies that support the Flint
Firebirds, the Dort Federal Event Center and the Ontario Hockey League. On behalf of the Flint Firebirds, I urge you to thank
and patronize these local businesses that have provided the foundation for world class hockey right here in Flint, Michigan.

If you are contemplating season ticket ownership, please see our season ticket and group ticket table tonight for more
information. We offer plans for every budget starting at $110! Your support is vital for our long-term viability.

Again, thank you for attending our game tonight and we hope to see you at many more.

Yours in hockey,

Flint Firebirds Hockey Club

Costa Papista, President

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As a Member of Congress representing the Fifth Congressional District of Michigan, I want to wish
our Flint Firebirds the best of luck in the upcoming 2017-2018 season. As a former hockey player, I
understand the hard work and dedication required to build a winning team.

In just a few seasons, your team has shown strong character and integrity on and off the ice.
From working fervently to raise $100,000 for charities like the American Cancer Society, Autism
Awareness Center and Food Bank of Eastern Michigan during your inaugural season, to conducting
water drives as a team after the onset of the Flint Water Crisis, your organization has consistently
demonstrated a passion for building our community. For these reasons and more, I’m honored to
join the rest of Flint in calling the Firebirds my home team.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Firebirds season and I wish Coach Oulahen and his team the
best of luck. Go Firebirds!

Dan Kildee Letter-09-2017.indd 1 9/12/17 2:51 PM

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Hello Hockey Fans!

On behalf of the Ontario Hockey League, I am honoured to welcome you to the start of the 2017-18
Ontario Hockey League season and the third year for the Flint Firebirds in the OHL.

We are extremely excited for the season ahead and the opportunity to share OHL hockey with the
passionate fans in Flint and Genesee County.

The OHL is the world’s top development League and No. 1 supplier of talent to the National Hockey
League and to Canadian University hockey. Since 1969, 21 percent of all players selected in the NHL
draft were from the OHL, with that trend continuing in the 2017 National Hockey League Entry
Draft last June, when 42 OHL players were selected – more than from any other League in the world.

The OHL continues to offer players the best of both worlds with opportunities to achieve both hockey
and academic goals. We are very proud of the success of the OHL Scholarship Program that continues
to benefit so many of our amateur athletes, setting them up for long-term success in their professional
careers. In 2016-17, 301 OHL graduates utilized the OHL Scholarship Program, while 87 percent of
all players in the Canadian University Championship were Canadian Hockey League graduates.

I would like to wish all players and teams the best of luck in their pursuit of the OHL Champion-
ship trophy, the John Ross Robertson Cup, and the CHL’s prestigious Memorial Cup awarded to our
National Champion, which will be celebrated for the 100th occasion in Regina, Saskatchewan in May,
2018. I hope that all families and fans truly enjoy the on-ice competition featuring some of the best
Major Junior players the world has to offer.

Yours in Hockey,


Ted Baker, Vice President

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Dort Federal Letter-09-2017.indd 1 9/12/17 1:58 PM
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Perani’s Hockey World would like to welcome you back to another exciting season of
Firebirds Hockey!

It’s been a very busy off season for the Flint Firebirds! They continue to have a positive
impact in the community through their involvement and support of area charities,
programs and events, and the organization has been working hard to build on last season’s
momentum by bringing some of the best young hockey players to Flint.

The OHL is the world’s premier developmental league for young hockey players wanting
to play in the NHL. The Firebirds give the people of Flint and surrounding cities the chance
to watch these young players before they move on to professional careers. Everyone at
Perani’s is excited to watch this level of talent!


Perani’s Hockey World

Kevin Ward

Robert Perani
Vice President

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Terry Christensen - Vice President

professional hockey as an assistant, head coach, and

director of player personnel.
During these experiences, Christensen has worked
with some of the best coaches in the game, including
the Hall of Fame Coach Ron Mason at Michigan State
University; George Gwozdecky, former Head Coach at
Denver University and winner of (2) consecutive NCAA
Championships; and Dave Peterson, head coach for
several USA Hockey Olympic and National Teams. In
addition, in 2010, Christensen was the first American
to receive an opportunity to work with some of the top
coaches and management in the Czech Republic as an
assistant coach for their U-20 National Team in the 2011
World Junior Championships.

erry Christensen is a native of Minnesota, where the “Collectively, these experiences allowed me the
game of ice hockey is arguably the biggest spectator sport. opportunity to learn from some of the best coaches and
The state is known for many players who have had Hall of managers in the game,” Christensen said.
Fame careers and for producing more skaters in the NHL than any He has also worked at a number of NHL Development
other state in the USA. Camps, including the Chicago Blackhawks under the
The most notable are John Mariucci, a former head coach of the guidance of Head Coach Mike Keenan, the Detroit Red
University of Minnesota, USA Olympic coach and assistant general Wings and Florida Panthers under the guidance of the
manager of the Minnesota North Stars; Walter Busch, a former late General Manager Bryan Murray, and the Columbus
Chairman of the Board for USA Hockey who was almost single- Blue Jackets under the guidance of General Manager,
handedly responsible for making women’s hockey an Olympic Doug MacLean.
event; Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 Gold Medal “Miracle on “As we begin our third year in Flint, I am very excited
Ice;” and finally, Phil Housley, recently elected to the NHL Hall of to see the Firebirds hockey team develop into a consistent
Fame and the current head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. winner under Head Coach Ryan Oulahen and his staff,”
Terry was very fortunate to have met and spent time with Christensen added. “Last year, the players showed great
all of the above people and admired their dedication and love improvement throughout the season, culminating with
for the great game of hockey. “They were all very personable our first appearance in the OHL Playoffs here in Flint. The
and sharing of their knowledge of the game,” Christensen said. talent level of the team has improved each year, and we
“They all wanted the players and game to develop, and had an should acknowledge the outstanding job that the Hockey
incredible passion to see the game grow in both the number of Operations Staff has done to draft the best players available
people playing, and the quality of the coaching and teaching of in the OHL Entry Draft.
fundamental skills.” “Thank you to our loyal fans and sponsors who continue
Throughout his 30+ years in hockey, he has coached and to support us,” Christensen concluded. “Without that
managed at elite levels. His coaching experience includes support, this project would not be possible. We all look
Division I college, USA National Jr., Czech National Jr. and forward to seeing you at the games this season!” ■


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Barclay Branch
VP Hockey Operation & General Manager

As the Firebirds’ new GM, Branch is continuing a love affair with

the OHL that began as a youngster in the Toronto area. Branch and
his friends would go to the old Maple Leaf Gardens to watch the
Toronto Marlboros.
By the time he was 10, he had his first job in hockey. Under the
heading of “hockey is a small world,” the former assistant coach of
the Oshawa Generals was George Burnett, the man from whom
Branch takes over as the Firebirds’ GM.
“I feel like the Ontario Hockey League has been part of my life from
a very young age,” Branch said. “It’s something I’ve grown up with.
I definitely have a passion about the league, what it’s about, what it
stands for. To be a part of it has always been a goal of mine. The fact
that I’m part of the league now excites me. I’m honored and I look
forward to many great years ahead.”
Branch believes he is taking over a strong, stable organization that is
in great shape after Burnett’s year as GM.

hile other hockey-playing kids in Canada dreamed of “A tremendous job was done by him and the rest of the staff,” Branch
becoming the next Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, said. “Again, I feel like I’m entering one of the best situations in the
Barclay Branch dreamed of becoming the next Sam Ontario Hockey League because of his work and the rest of the staff ’s
Pollock or Bill Torrey. work. Things are definitely pointed in the right direction. There’s a real
Branch was always attracted to hockey’s behind-the-scenes strong, positive culture around the team. I can’t say enough about the
action, even when he was still young enough to wonder where his work that has been done prior to me coming to Flint.”
playing ability might take him. It was Burnett who gave Branch his first real job in hockey as an
“From a very young age, I really got drawn toward the scouting assistant coach with Oshawa. Branch considers Burnett one of the
and management side of hockey,” Branch said. “It intrigued me. greatest influences in his life.
When I would go to games, I’d always watch the scouts. I saw them “In a lot of ways, he was a very influential person to me, on both
writing on their pads, wondering what they were writing, what they a personal level and a professional level,” Branch said. “He gave me
saw. It was something that led me to where I am today.” an opportunity to work in a league I grew up watching and being
Today, Branch is the general manager of the Flint Firebirds, passionate about. I’ll always feel in debt to him for that. It was also
continuing a career in the Ontario Hockey League that he began as one of those things where every day, I was learning from him without
a stick-boy for the Oshawa Generals. realizing it. It was almost by osmosis. Now, I look back and see a lot of
He was assistant general manager and director of player things I learned along the way. They were lessons he taught me that I
personnel for the Belleville Bulls for 11 seasons, including the didn’t even realize I was learning.”
2007-08 season when the team played in the Memorial Cup. He was One of Branch’s thrills in hockey was being part of the Belleville
general manager and head scout of the Sudbury Wolves the last two organization when future NHL star defenseman, P.K. Subban, played
seasons before being named the Firebirds’ GM in April. He also had for the Bulls. Subban was formerly with the Montreal Canadiens and is
stints as an assistant coach in Oshawa and assistant GM/Director of now with the Nashville Preditors.
Player Personnel in Hamilton. “Every day he woke up, he was focused on becoming an NHL
“It’s a very exciting opportunity, first and foremost,” Branch said. hockey player,” Branch said. “There wasn’t anything that was going
“It’s a really exciting young hockey club. There’s a lot of potential to stand in his way. He did all the work that was required. It’s a great
with this group. I’m excited to be part of it and help put together lesson to young hockey players who really strive to play at the NHL
a team that the people of Flint and Genesee County are proud of, level. He shows them, ‘I’m a good person and I worked hard.’ It’s no
really want to get behind and get excited about.” mistake where he is.” ■


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Sponsor Spotlight: Genesee Packaging

ong before the Flint Firebirds came to town in 2015, much of “It’s something I enjoy and something that I feel strongly that our
Jane Worthing’s social life revolved around hockey. community needs,” she said. “I think this venture is great for the
A regular hangout in the 1970s was the IMA Sports Arena, community. The Firebirds helped raise money for lots and lots of different
now called Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center, where she watched causes. I like being able to participate in that way by being a sponsor
friends play for the recently formed Clio High School team and was and being active in those special nights when we raise money for the
among those who packed the place to watch the original Flint Generals. community. It’s good for the community, in general, with the visitors,
“All the girls went to watch the guys play,” Worthing said of her restaurants, hotels and all of that.”
high school days. Worthing has worked for Genesee Packaging for 38 years, the last
A lot has changed since those carefree days at Clio High for three as owner and CEO. Genesee Packaging offers warehousing and
Worthing, now a successful businesswoman as CEO of Genesee storage, packaging services, logistics and distribution, and supply-chain
Packaging, Inc. management for businesses, mainly in the automotive industry.
But the one constant has been her love of hockey. “We don’t do a lot of retail,” she said. “For us, that kind of thing doesn’t draw
“I would say out of all the sports, I’m a hockey fan and I’m a NASCAR a lot in our business. But what (sponsorship) does do for us, in my opinion, is
fan,” she said. “I can’t tell you much about football or basketball or any of it brings a local focus. Some of our customers have groups here for games, so
that stuff. I’ve always been a hockey fan.” they see that local support. Anybody who follows the organization and knows
Worthing was able to mesh her professional life with her passion for the things they do regarding philanthropy and all the other things that are
hockey when the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League were great for the community – for me it’s that tick on the board. There’s a company
purchased by Rolf Nilsen and moved to Flint to become the Firebirds. that we know is supporting this activity.”
She was on the community advisory board that was formed when the Whenever possible, Worthing spreads
Firebirds arrived in Flint. By seeing the formation of the franchise from the word about the Firebirds to those with
the inside, Worthing wanted to get her business involved as a sponsor of whom she comes in contact.
the Firebirds. “She’s a die-hard Firebirds fan,” Susana
“That helped me build a closer relationship with Costa (Papista, the Wight said. “Her company supports it
Firebirds’ President), Susana (Wight, former Director of Community in a huge way. Her family is here pretty
Relations and Marketing) and Dom (Hennig, Director of Broadcasting and much every single game. They bring
Communications), and the rest of the people here,” Worthing said. their friends. They wear their gear.
“Eventually, they probably would’ve tracked me down for a sponsorship, They’re proud. You couldn’t ask for a
but it was really a natural fit because I was on the advisory committee, and had better partner. Those are the people who
a personal desire to see the team succeed.” help make the Firebirds happen. They’re
Worthing’s admiration for the franchise goes beyond the on-ice so important to us, and we’re grateful,
product. without a doubt.” ■

Jane Worthing
CEO of Genesee Packaging, Inc.

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Flint Firebirds on Path
to NHL Dream

eing drafted by his hometown team came with a Gordeev worked hard to become an Ontario Hockey League
huge advantage for Flint Firebirds defenseman, player and NHL draft pick, but being around pros on a regular
Fedor Gordeev. basis showed him the next level of commitment that is necessary
Gordeev had a rare opportunity to make a daily to progress to the best league in the world.
impression upon his NHL team by training throughout “They have an NHL group and AHL group,” Gordeev said. “I
the summer at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ facility. was with the NHL guys. It was nice. They took me in and showed
A Toronto resident by way of Russia, Gordeev said me the ropes. It’s nice to be surrounded by the atmosphere. All
he cried when he was taken by the Maple Leafs in the these guys are like workhorses. They’ve definitely been pushing
fifth round with the 141st overall pick in the 2017 NHL me to my limits, for sure. They always stay on me, working hard
Draft, this past June in Chicago. every set. Their strength and conditioning staff is amazing.”
But once the glow of being the Firebirds’ third NHL On the ice, the 6-foot-6 Gordeev worked with Barb Underhill,
draft pick in just two years became reality, it was time to Toronto Maple Leafs’ skating development consultant, and Mike
put in the hard work necessary to really make the dream Ellis, the team’s skill development consultant.
come true and eventually become a Maple Leaf. “I really feel a big difference in my game now with the
To that end, Gordeev was able to train all summer at development in my skating over the summer,” Gordeev said.
the Mastercard Centre, the Maple Leafs’ practice and “Being able to scrimmage with these guys and play at a faster
training facility. pace will help me out a lot, as well.”
“That was huge for me,” Gordeev said. “I was basically one Gordeev wasn’t considered an NHL prospect initially when he
of the only prospects who was training there with all the AHL started in the OHL. He didn’t have a defined role with the OHL’s
and NHL guys. It’s definitely an advantage.” Hamilton Bulldogs, playing forward and defense.


NHL Players-09-2017.indd 1 9/14/17 3:11 PM

The Firebirds put him on defense full-time after acquiring him in an early- “I got off to a strong start,” Caamano said. “Coach Ryan Oulahen really
season trade that involved forward Will Bitten, Flint’s first NHL draft pick helped me a lot, working on my D-zone coverage and just getting position
(Montreal Canadiens, June 2016). on the ice. That was huge for me and the growth in my game. It made it a
“We committed to him as a defenseman,” Flint Firebird coach Ryan lot simpler for me, which helped me a lot.”
Oulahen said. “We worked with him and he took advantage of his After the Firebirds were eliminated from the OHL playoffs, Caamano
opportunities. He ended up being one of our top four guys. He played got the opportunity to play his first professional games with Dallas’ AHL
in all different situations and started getting on the radar of NHL farm team, the Texas Stars. He had three assists in six games. Dallas signed
teams. That’s what happens with guys. Sometimes they slide into a him to a three-year entry-level contract which begins this season.
good opportunity, a good moment, and they take advantage of it.” “It was awesome,” Caamano said. “The guys were really nice to
While Gordeev was getting his first exposure to an NHL me. It was definitely a faster pace. The guys are stronger. I enjoyed the
franchise this summer, Firebirds forward Nicholas Caamano was experience and took a lot from it.
becoming more comfortable with his opportunities to be around “I thought I fit in pretty well, but there are definitely some things I
the Dallas Stars who drafted him in the fifth round at the 2016 have to get used to; that will just take time. Once I get a little bigger and
NHL Draft, as the 146th overall pick. stronger, I think I’ll fit in pretty well there.”
He participated in the Stars’ development camp in Dallas and the Gordeev and Caamano were just two of six members of last year’s
prospects tournament in Traverse City for the second time this September. Firebirds to participate in NHL development camps over the summer.
“It went really well this time,” Caamano said of his time in Dallas. “I Luke Kirwan (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Moore (New
was a lot more comfortable. I kind of knew what to expect and knew York Rangers), Alex Peters (Detroit Red Wings), Kole Sherwood
how to prepare for it. I think I did really well there.” (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes) also
Not content with merely being drafted, Caamano took another step went to camps. Sherwood and Smereck are under contract to their
forward in his hockey career. Caamano was third on the Firebirds in respective NHL teams. ■
scoring last season with 35 goals and 29 assists in 67 games. He had
14 power play goals, more than twice the total of any other Firebird.

“I was a lot more comfortable. I

kind of knew what to expect and “I really feel a big
knew how to prepare for it. I think difference in my
I did really well at the Dallas Stars’ game now with the
training camp.” development in
my skating over
-Caamano the summer with
the Toronto Maple



NHL Players-09-2017.indd 2 9/15/17 11:17 AM

Firebirds 12 22 9/12/17
9/13/16 4:07
2:49 PM
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We’re proud to support the Flint Firebirds!

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4346 W. Pierson Road Flint | 810.732.1200
727 S. State Road, Davison | 810.653.5383
6120 Fenton Road, Flint | 810.232.3810
220 E. Main Street, Flushing | 810.659.7712
3213 N. Genesee Road, Flint | 810.736.0440

ADS.indd 13 9/12/17 4:07 PM

Coach Oulahen: Goals and Rewards

year ago, everything about his new job as coach of the In his first season as a head coach, the Firebirds improved to 12th
Flint Firebirds was a mystery to Ryan Oulahen. He overall before losing a five-game series to Sault Ste. Marie in the first
landed in an area he’d only heard rumors about, and was playoff round.
coaching a group of players he would never have recognized had “We probably felt when we took over the team that if we could make
he bumped into them on the street. the playoffs, it would be a major accomplishment,” Oulahen said. “We
“Last year at this time, when I was sitting down with you, I was felt good about that. For sure, as a coach, there were times in the year
telling you about my plan for getting to know the players as quickly when I felt we could have done a lot better. We definitely improved as
as possible,” Oulahen said in early August. “I feel I know these kids as the season went on, and I think we peaked near the end of the season
well as I know my own.” toward the playoffs. I felt good about the club and where we were
He also has a better feel for the Flint area, so much so that he didn’t headed. We just ran into an extremely tough Western Conference.”
leave town when the Firebirds’ season ended. The Firebirds will try to make a deeper run this season, having the
“We love it here,” Oulahen said. “I guess the best way to describe advantage of a year of guidance under Oulahen.
how we feel about the area is that we’ve been hanging around all “Our players know the system,” he said. “They know the
summer. We certainly immersed ourselves in the community. Our expectations on a day-to-day level. We’ve got great leadership in that
kids are into sports and programs around here. We’ve joined the local room. That’s what I’m so excited about – we’re not starting from
golf club. We’ve had a fantastic summer getting to know people better scratch. It’s building and improving.”
and realizing how many people truly are hockey fans and support the Oulahen became the Firebirds’ head coach at the age of 31 after
Flint Firebirds.” six seasons as lead assistant coach of the Brampton/North Bay OHL
Oulahen’s six-year-old son is in the Junior Firebirds program, while franchise, where he played from 2002-05.
his four-year-old is on skates and should soon be ready to play, as well. He got into coaching earlier than he had hoped, suffering a career-
Oulahen certainly ingratiated himself with Firebirds fans by ending hip injury in March 2009 while playing for the Grand Rapids
coaching the team to an Ontario Hockey League playoff berth one Griffins of the American Hockey League. Oulahen was under contract
year after the team finished 18th out of 20 teams in its inaugural to the Detroit Red Wings, who selected him in the fifth round of the
season in Flint. 2003 NHL Draft.


Coaches-09-2017.indd 1 9/13/17 5:02 PM

Oulahen fell short of his dream of playing in the NHL; but perhaps one day, he’ll
get there as a coach. That’s not at the forefront of his mind right now, however.
“There’s no doubt I’m fully addicted and ingrained in coaching,” he said.
“I want to go as far as I possibly can. Now, saying that, I think that as a
coach, you just live in the moment. So my goal is to develop the Flint
Firebirds into a championship team. That’s all I want to do. From
there, if something happens down the road, it does. I’m really living
my dream right now and having a great time! That’s pretty much
the goal – to do the best possible job we can and eventually, bring a
championship to Flint.”
Besides making the playoffs, Oulahen is most proud
of the progress his players made individually during
his first season with the Firebirds. Defenseman
Fedor Gordeev was a draft pick of the Toronto
Maple Leafs, and other players saw some action
with professional teams after the OHL playoffs.
“You really get the reward of seeing guys
develop,” he said.“From one year to the
next, they can make huge strides and huge
gains. It’s the concept of a player coming
to you at 16 or 17 as a boy, and when he
leaves you at 19 or 20, he’s a man. It’s
amazing to see the progression and as a
coach, it really is rewarding.” ■

“There’s no doubt I’m fully addicted

and ingrained in coaching.”


Coaches-09-2017.indd 2 9/12/17 4:13 PM

Assistant Coaches
Experience and Passion

Paul Flache Scott MacDonald Greg Stefan

reg Stefan won’t have to work to build credibility with the Stefan said. “I’ve been with them for a long time. We had a lot of
Flint Firebirds’ goaltenders – he walked into the job as the success in the organization.
Firebirds’ goaltending coach with instant street cred. “I’ve been with the organization forever. It feels like Flint is an
Stefan played 299 regular-season games and 30 playoff games in extension of the Plymouth Whalers. Obviously, it’s a new owner, but
goal for the Detroit Red Wings over parts of nine seasons. He has the original organization.”
a Stanley Cup ring from his time as a goaltending coach and pro Stefan’s ties with Karmanos put him in a position to be part of the
scout with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He’s been a head coach Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup championship, something that eluded
in the Ontario Hockey League and an assistant in the National him as a player. Stefan was on the upstart Red Wings teams that lost
Hockey League. to the powerful Edmonton Oilers in the 1987 and 1988 Campbell
In addition, Stefan has been exactly where the young men he’s Conference finals.
coaching are at this stage of their careers: playing in the OHL with “Winning as a coach was the next best thing,” Stefan said. “I cherish
dreams of making it to the big time. that. You have a Stanley Cup ring and you get the Stanley Cup and you
His connection with the OHL goes back to 1978-79 when he played have a party. My kids got to enjoy that.”
the first of his three seasons with the Oshawa Generals. After an injury Stefan’s connection with the Firebirds franchise is through his
ended his playing career, Stefan returned to the OHL as goalie coach brother, Assistant General Manager Joe Stefan. When the Firebirds
for the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the first incarnation of the franchise were looking for a goaltending coach over the summer, Joe contacted
that became the Firebirds. Stefan also worked for the franchise when Greg and had him get in contact with Head Coach, Ryan Oulahen.
it was in Plymouth, serving as head coach for parts of the 2007-08 and Stefan said his focus as a coach is to work on the mental side of
2008-09 seasons. the game.
The Whalers were owned by Pete Karmanos Jr., who also owns “Especially with young kids, 17 or 18 years old, there’s a lot of
the Hurricanes. “I’ve always had a relationship with Mr. Karmanos emotion in that position,” Stefan said. “There are a lot of highs and
and (former Hurricanes general manager) Jimmy Rutherford,” lows. If you can get to know the person, know what makes him tick,


Coaches-09-2017.indd 3 9/14/17 11:18 AM

what his strengths and weaknesses are, you can round that off and “One of the biggest things I’ve taken away is that I just want to give
hopefully make him into a solid goaltender.” back and teach younger players what I didn’t learn until maybe later
Stefan isn’t the only new member of Oulahen’s coaching staff. on in my career,” Flache said. “I’m always trying to learn. Even as a
Paul Flache was hired as associate coach to replace Eric Wellwood, coach, I’m trying to get better, to learn and help players get better at
who left to pursue a career outside of hockey. Like Stefan, Flache the same time. I’m definitely passionate about it, that’s for sure.”
brings a background as a former OHL player. He played three seasons Scott MacDonald returns for his second season as an assistant
for the Brampton Battalion from 1999-2002 before spending 10 coach and video coordinator with the Flint Firebirds. MacDonald
seasons in professional hockey in the minor leagues and in Germany. has more than 12 years of experience in the sports technology
Oulahen also played in Brampton, but came along the season after field. Prior to Flint, he was an assistant coach and video
Flache turned pro. coordinator for the Plymouth Whalers for four seasons from
Flache, 35, was selected in two NHL drafts, going in the fifth round 2010-14 under Mike Vellucci.
to the Edmonton Oilers in 2000 and the same round to the Atlanta MacDonald holds a degree in Sports Management &
Thrashers in 2002. After finishing his playing career with Gwinnett of the Communications from the University of Michigan and has worked
East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) in 2012, Flache became head coach with various respected organizations, such as the United States
of the Total Package Hockey (TPH) Thunder AAA program in Atlanta. Olympic Committee, New England Patriots, New York Islanders, New
“You always think you want to stay in the game, but you don’t know York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.
in what capacity,” Flache said. “I was fortunate to stay in the game. I “Scott has a skill set that is really going to help compliment Paul
don’t miss playing, because I stayed in it. The transition was easy.” and I on a daily basis,” said Firebirds Head Coach, Ryan Oulahen. “He
As a former defenseman, Flache will be charged with working with brings a lot of OHL experience to our club and we look forward to
the Firebirds blue-line corps. getting started on our second season together.” ■


Coaches-09-2017.indd 4 9/14/17 11:17 AM

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PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 1 9/13/17 12:16 PM

# Name Page Position Shoots Height Weight Date of Birth Birth Place
3 Nikita Alexandrov 34 RD R 6.07 203 May 18, 1999 Kurgan, Russia
4 Håkon Nilsen 34 RD R 6.00 192 Feb 4, 1998 Cape Coral, FL
7 Maurizio Colella 35 LW L 6.00 190 Mar 21, 1997 Tottenham, ON
9 Jack Phibbs 35 LW L 5.11 184 March 5, 1999 Hagersville, ON
10 Nicholas Caamano 36 LW L 6.02 200 Sep 7, 1998 Ancaster, ON
11 Dennis Busby 36 RD R 5.11 188 Jan 6, 2000 Barrie, ON
12 Jake Durham 37 RW R 5.10 196 Apr 7, 1999 Port Perry, ON
15 Fedor Gordeev 37 LD L 6.06 202 Jan 27, 1999 Toronto, ON
19 Kyle Harris 38 C L 5.11 163 Apr 12, 2001 East Aurora, NY
21 Max Kislinger 38 LW L 6.03 202 Feb 11, 1998 Farchant, Germany
22 Marcus Gretz 39 LD L 6.03 207 Nov 22, 2001 Macomb, MI
26 Ryan Littlejohn 39 LW L 6.02 196 Feb 11, 2000 Newmarket, ON
33 Garrett Forrest 40 G L 5.10 177 Jul 7, 1997 Ashburn, VA
37 Luke Cavallin 40 G R 6.01 180 Apr 29, 2001 Greely, ON
40 Ryan Moore 41 C L 5.08 168 Apr 9, 1997 Troy, MI
44 Luke Kirwan 41 LW L 6.03 220 Sep 23, 1997 Dewitt, NY
53 Ty Dellandrea 42 C R 6.00 190 Jul 21, 2000 Port Perry, ON
73 Jacob Collins 42 LW L 6.01 195 Apr 20, 1998 Renfrew, ON
74 Zack Pilon 43 RD R 6.03 192 Nov 28, 2000 Smiths Falls, ON
77 Jack Wismer 43 RW R 6.00 189 Feb 24, 2000 Stoney Creek, ON
81 C.J. Clarke 44 RW L 6.00 194 Feb 8, 1999 Mississauga, ON
92 Ethan Keppen 44 LW L 6.02 205 Mar 20, 2001 Whitby, ON
93 Hunter Holmes 45 C L 6.01 181 Jan 25, 2000 St. Davidʼs, ON


PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 2 9/14/17 4:25 PM

2016 -- 2017

Nikita Alexandrov
3 Defenseman
6-7 203
Kurgan, Russia
May 8, 1999 OHL: 2017 Import Selection - 1st/25th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season HK MVD Balashikha 41 2 5 7 -6 44

4 Håkon Nilsen
6-1 190
Cape Coral, FL
February 4, 1998 OHL: 2015 Priority Selection - 7th/125th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 43 3 3 6 5 16
2015-16 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 45 0 4 4 -29 6
2014-15 Regular Season Little Caesars U18 15 0 2 2 - 8


PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 3 9/14/17 4:53 PM


7 Maurizio Colella
Left Wing
6-0 190
Tottenham, ON
March 21, 1997 OHL: 2013 Priority Selection 5th/86th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 30 12 13 25 15 11
North Bay Battalion 35 6 10 16 -11 21
2015-16 Regular Season North Bay Battalion 29 5 7 12 5 14
Hamilton Bulldogs 37 3 5 8 -13 21
2014-15 Regular Season Belleville Bulls 57 3 4 7 -14 15

Jack Phibbs
9 Left Wing
6-0 183
Hagersville, ON
March 5, 1999 OHL: 2015 Priority Selection - 7th/133rd
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 54 2 5 7 -2 4
2015-16 Regular Season Brantford Jr. B 99ers 50 18 22 40 - 22
2014-15 Regular Season Sthrn Tier Admirals 35 24 24 48 - 12


PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 4 9/14/17 4:53 PM

2016 -- 2017
2017 2018
10 Nicholas Caamano
Left Wing
6-2 200
Ancaster, ON NHL: Dallas Stars
September 7, 1998 OHL: 2014 Priority Selection - 2nd/27th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Texas Stars 6 0 3 3 0 2
Flint Firebirds 67 35 29 64 -6 63
2015-16 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 64 20 17 37 -22 40
2014-15 Regular Season Plymouth Whalers 64 3 6 9 -16 29

11 Dennis Busby
5-11 188
Barrie, ON
January 6, 2000 OHL: 2016 Priority Selection - 2nd/23rd
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 62 2 14 16 0 20
2015-16 Regular Season Barrie Colts Minor Midget 23 6 17 23 - 6


PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 5 9/14/17 4:54 PM


12 Jake Durham
Right Wing
5-10 196
Port Perry, ON
April 7, 1999 OHL: 2015 Priority Selection - 7th/128th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 66 10 6 16 -4 38
2015-16 Regular Season Whitby Fury 54 9 12 21 - 60
2014-15 Regular Season Stouffville Spirit 4 0 0 0 - 0
Central Ontario Wolves
Minor Midget AAA 33 21 12 33 - 49

15 Fedor Gordeev
6-6 202
Toronto, ON
January 27, 1999 OHL: 2015 Priority Selection - 3rd/59th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 62 3 10 13 -7 43
Hamilton Bulldogs 2 1 0 1 4 2
2015-16 Regular Season Hamilton Bulldogs 8 0 2 2 0 2
Ancaster Avalanche 44 6 20 26 - 36


PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 6 9/14/17 4:54 PM

2016 -- 2017
2017 2018

19 Kyle Harris
5-11 163
East Aurora, NY
April 12, 2001 OHL: 2017 Priority Selection - 7th/128th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Toronto Marlboros 32 10 16 26 - 6
Minor Midget AAA

21 Max Kislinger
Left Wing
6-3 202
Farchant, Germany
February 11, 1998 CHL: 2015 Import Draft - 1st/48th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season North Bay Battalion 35 6 6 12 -4 28
2015-16 Regular Season North Bay Battalion 68 12 8 20 -8 31


PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 7 9/14/17 4:55 PM


22 Marcus Gretz
6-3 207
Macomb, MI
November 22, 2001 OHL: 2017 Priority Selection - 2nd/23rd
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Belle Tire U16 32 4 12 16 - 24

Ryan Littlejohn
26 Left Wing
6-2 196
Newmarket, ON
February 11, 2000 OHL: 2016 Priority Selection - 3rd/48th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 42 1 2 3 -5 39
2015-16 Regular Seasoon Mississauga Rebels Minor 71 18 29 47 - 132
Midget AAA


PlayerRoster-Sept2017.indd 8 9/14/17 4:55 PM

2016 -- 2017
2017 2018

Garrett Forrest
33 Goalie
5-10 177
Ashburn, VA
July 7, 1997 OHL: 2013 Priority Selection - 10th/190th
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 32 3.51 0.889 13 14 2 2 1862 979 870 109 1
2015-16 Regular Season Powassan Voodoos 38 2.37 0.934 24 10 - - 2148 - 1196 85 5

37 Luke Cavalin
6-1 180
Greely, ON
April 29, 2001 OHL: 2017 Priority Selection - 2nd/28th
2016-17 Regular Season Kemptville 73's 25 2.22 0.920 11 9 4 - 1194 - - 53 2
Midget AAA


PlayerRoster-2nd Half-Sept2017.indd 19 9/15/17 11:24 AM


40 Ryan Moore
5-8 168
Troy, MI
April 9, 1997 OHL: 2013 Priority Selection - 2nd/35th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 68 39 51 90 11 57
2015-16 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 68 25 23 48 -23 54
2014-15 Regular Season Plymouth Whalers 24 2 7 9 0 24
Windsor Spitfires 33 5 15 20 -9 42

44 Luke Kirwan
Left Wing
6-3 220
Dewitt, NY
September 23, 1997 OHL: 2013 Priority Selection 2nd/32nd
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 31 14 8 22 -2 10
2015-16 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 32 8 4 12 -13 19
Windsor Spitfires 31 2 2 4 -10 13
2014-15 Regular Season Windsor Spitfires 59 7 12 19 -19 27


PlayerRoster-2nd Half-Sept2017.indd 20 9/14/17 4:29 PM

2016 -- 2017
2017 2018

Ty Dellandrea
53 Center
6-0 190
Port Perry, ON
July 21, 2000 OHL: 2016 Priority Selection - 1st/5th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 57 13 11 24 -12 26
Central Ontario Wolves
2015-16 Regular Season Minor Midget AAA 36 36 21 57 - 52
Central Ontario Wolves
2014-15 Regular Season Minor Midget AAA 33 18 17 35 - 38

73 Jacob Collins
Left Wing
6-1 195
Renfrew, ON
April 20, 1998 OHL: 2014 Priority Selection - 5th/99th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 61 1 1 2 -8 20
2015-16 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 55 4 14 18 -7 14
2014-15 Regular Season Plymouth Whalers 22 1 1 2 2 2


PlayerRoster-2nd Half-Sept2017.indd 21 9/13/17 12:15 PM


74 Zack Pilon
6-3 192
Smiths Falls, ON
November 28, 2000 OHL: 2017 Priority Selection - 4th/67th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Athens Aeros 44 6 16 22 - 25

77 Jack Wismer
Right Wing
6-0 189
Stoney Creek, ON
February 24, 2000 OHL: 2016 Priority Selection - 2nd/41st
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Ancaster Avalanche 17 5 12 17 - 4
2015-16 Regular Season Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs 35 19 32 51 - 10
Minor Midget AAA


PlayerRoster-2nd Half-Sept2017.indd 22 9/14/17 2:55 PM

2016 -- 2017
2017 2018

C.J. Clarke
81 Right Wing
6-0 194
Mississauga, ON
February 8, 1999 OHL: 2015 Priority Selection - 2nd/29th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 29 3 10 13 -2 10
Peterborough Petes 27 6 5 11 -4 9
2015-16 Regular Season Peterborough Petes 53 1 1 2 -15 12

92 Ethan Keppan
Left Wing
6-2 205
Whitby, ON
March 20, 2001 OHL: 2017 Priority Selection - 1st/10th
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Toronto Nationals 33 14 21 35 - -
Minor Midget AAA


PlayerRoster-2nd Half-Sept2017.indd 23 9/13/17 12:16 PM


93 Hunter Holmes
6-1 181
St. David’s, ON
January 25, 2000 OHL: 2016 Priority Selection - 2nd/22nd
Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
2016-17 Regular Season Flint Firebirds 67 5 8 13 -6 14
2015-16 Regular Season Niagara North Stars 35 22 12 34 - 38
Minor Midget AAA


PlayerRoster-2nd Half-Sept2017.indd 24 9/13/17 12:15 PM

ADS.indd 16 9/12/17 4:08 PM
Firebirds ADS.indd
ADS.indd 17 16 9/13/16 4:08
9/12/17 2:01 PM
Hosting a Firebird
is about more than hockey

(L-R) Jack Stolicker, Marcus Gretz, Ryan Moore, Kortne Stolicker and Jeb Stolicker

ike others who host Flint Firebirds players, Jeb those guys! They’re a really good example for me just
and Kortne Stolicker of Holly became involved to watch.”
to support players as they pursue their hockey Like most hockey playsers, Jack has hopes of
dreams. But an additional benefit for the couple has been playing junior hockey in the United States Hockey
that their son, Jack, is getting a daily education in what it League (USHL) or OHL in a couple of years. He’s
takes to play major junior hockey at an elite level. had the opportunity to learn what it takes from
Seemingly mundane, everyday issues like what to eat some of the best. The last two seasons, the family
and how much sleep to get, can give players an edge as hosted former captain, Alex Peters. Ryan Moore, last
they progress through the hockey ranks. Jack Stolicker, a year’s leading scorer, is staying with the Stolickers
14-year-old getting an on-ice and classroom education at for his second season. He is joined by defenseman,
Total Package Hockey, has been soaking up everything he Marcus Gretz, a Macomb, Michigan native who was
can while observing the Firebirds players his family has a second-round Firebirds’ pick in the 2017 OHL
hosted since the team came to Flint in 2015. Priority Selection.
“I don’t know if my life would be the same without The family already knows Gretz through the Total
them,” said Jack, who plays in the Victory Honda AAA Package Hockey school. “Jack and Marcus are really
Hockey program. “They’ve changed my life completely. good buddies,” Kortne said. “They’ve known each
They’re part of the family and like brothers to me. I love other for years.”


Host Families Billets-09-2017.indd 1 9/14/17 4:46 PM

The Stolickers have hosted two players each season, “From watching the boys when we go to tournaments, he’s
even having three for a while last year. They have only very different than the majority of his buddies he plays with,”
one child of their own at home and believe it’s beneficial Kortne said. “He knows when he needs to rest, he knows when
for the players to have a peer in the home. he needs to eat.”
“Having two kids is better,” Jeb said. “They have highs As a youngster, Kortne experienced living with a billet family
and lows with each other and they’re not stuck on an in Lake Placid, NY. “I figure skated as a kid and I billeted for
island. This will be a little bit different this year, because the summer,” she recalled. “When I heard that the Firebirds
Marcus is a monster. He’ll be 16 and is 6’3” tall, 220 were coming to Flint, I thought it would be a really cool
pounds at 15, but he’s a younger boy. Ryan will be a experience, a way to give back.” ■
great mentor. When it comes to being role models, the
boys we’ve had have been nothing but optimal.”
Having OHL players in the house
has brought many positive
changes, not the least of
which is in the kitchen.
“Having the boys move
in, they’re not eating
bags of chips and sucking
down pops,” Jeb added.
“Jack kind of emulates
what they do –
prep. And
of course,
that all
fell on Kortne.
There was a learning
curve when it came to
caloric intake for the
“It’s crazy!” Kortne
exclaimed. “I shop a lot
– lots of vegetables, lots
of chicken. We used to be
pretty bad
about eating
out often.
I ended Ryan Moore
up being
fortunate enough to take a buyout
at work. We had the boys for four
months when I was working. It’s a
lot easier when I’m at home.”
The parents have noticed a difference in their son Marcus Gretz
when they go out of town for his hockey games during
the winter.


Host Families Billets-09-2017.indd 2 9/14/17 11:26 AM

ADS.indd 18 9/12/17 4:08 PM
Firebirds ADS.indd
ADS.indd 19 7 9/9/16 10:14
9/12/17 4:08 PM
Firebirds Take Pride
in Community Involvement

hen the Firebirds came to Flint in 2015, the franchise once the puck drops for the franchise’s third season in the Ontario
wanted to provide more than just entertaining Hockey League.
hockey. One of the primary goals was to make a Some efforts, like reading programs, will take place within the
positive impact in the community. community. Many others will be hosted at Dort Federal Credit
With more than $200,000 raised for local organizations and Union Event Center as part of game nights.
charities in two seasons and countless lives touched in nonmonetary Two of the most successful promotional nights in the Firebirds’ first
ways, the Firebirds are achieving that goal on a daily basis. two seasons were the ‘Pink Out the Rink’ Night, which raises money
“On the fundraising and charity side, it’s something we’re very proud for breast cancer patients at McLaren Flint, and the Teddy Bear Toss,
of and something we’re going to continue to build upon to really be good which donates stuffed animals that are tossed onto the ice to various
community partners,” Firebirds President, Costa Papista said. “We’re local charities like Ennis Center for Children, Hurley Medical Center,
no different than any other OHL franchise. The OHL takes community Michigan State Police and the Whaley Children’s Center.
involvement very seriously. It’s a big part of all of our business models.” The Pink Out the Rink night will be held October 21 and the Teddy
There is no offseason for the Firebirds, who had a visible presence Bear Toss on December 2.
at events throughout the Flint area during the summer. The Firebirds Another successful venture has been the Firebirds’ Fight Hunger
helped support about 60 events in the area from the end of their 2016- campaign. All six games in January, fans can bring five non-perishable or
17 season until training camp started for 2017-18. canned food items to receive a complimentary ticket to any of those games,
That included local parades, golf outings and festivals. The Firebirds limit to four tickets per family.
were represented at major events like Back to the Bricks and the HAP Two more special nights on the schedule this year honor those who
Crim Festival of Races. help protect us. First Responders Nights will be held on October 14
The Firebirds’ community involvement focus will remain strong and Military Appreciation Day will take place November 11.


Community Involvement -09-2017.indd 1 9/15/17 9:09 AM

A fun night that allows of special events, then throughout the
youngsters to safely participate season with the reading program, the
in Halloween festivities is involvement with the Food Bank, the
‘Trick or Treat at the Rink’ on hospital visits, the appearance with youth
October 28. Kids can wear a hockey teams. They do a lot of really
costume to the game, receive good community work, and manage to
treats from sponsors along the do that in the middle of a really tough
concourse and parade on the schedule, 68 games in 26 weeks. It’s pretty
ice during an intermission. impressive what they do.”
The popular ‘Tropics Night’, Most of the work on the Firebirds’
during which the Firebirds wear and auction off Flint Tropics-styled community outreach efforts throughout the first two seasons
sweaters, from the movie Semi-Pro staring Will Ferell, is February 17. and the summer of 2017 were led by Susana Wight, who left the
The Firebirds’ efforts to reach the community include the players, franchise, to spend time with family, at the end of September after
themselves. While they work to become future pros on the ice, serving as director of community relations and marketing.
they are also learning lessons on how pro players are active in “She actually totally spearheaded the community involvement efforts
community outreach. and did an amazing job,” Papista said.
“Our players have been phenomenal,” Papista added. “They’re always Firebirds Owner, Rolf Nilsen is a big proponent of developing the
enthusiastic to do public appearances. They do a great job. They’re players to be mindful of their responsibilities in the community.
really bright guys and they represent the franchise extremely well. I “This is part of developing our kids,” Nilsen said. “If you play hockey,
believe they’re just phenomenal ambassadors for the City of Flint. it’s more than just hockey. Grow up to be good citizens. Part of that is
“I can’t say enough about what they do in the community in helping the society around us. It’s really important for our players.” ■
the summertime, when guys come in from out of town to be part


Phone: (248) 735-6000

Fax: (248) 735-6001
Bob Bishop Direct Line: (313) 600-8655


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Top Picks Flock to Flint

key indication of the stability of the Flint Firebirds’ future by scoring 13 goals and 11 assists in 57 games as a rookie.
organization is the success the team has had receiving Four of the team’s top five 2016 picks played for the Firebirds in
commitments from its top draft picks. 2016-17, helping the team reach the OHL playoffs. The fifth, a second-
The franchise’s first-ever draft pick, Michael McLeod, forced a trade to round pick, Jack Wismer, committed after playing a season in the
Mississauga before the 2015-16 season so he could play with his brother Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL).
on his hometown team. A turbulent inaugural season cast some doubt The Firebirds’ top three picks and four of the top five from this years
about the desirability of Flint for OHL draft picks. OHL Draft have committed to play this season.
Those concerns have been swept well into the past. The team’s top pick was Ethan Keppen, a left winger from Whitby,
Of the team’s ten highest picks in the past two drafts, nine have Ontario who was the 10th overall pick.
committed to the Firebirds. “It’s a lot easier this year compared to Keppen had 14 goals and 21 assists in 35 games with the Toronto
two years ago,” Firebirds Assistant General Manager, Joe Stefan said. Nationals Minor Midget AAA hockey team. He made the OHL Cup
“We just think it’s going to get better and better. With the agents and All-Star team after scoring three goals and eight assists in eight games
the people who come into our facility and see how we’re running the at the OHL Cup in March.
program, it’s going to get easier and easier. “He’s more of a power forward type of winger that I think the fans
“These players have come into Flint in the spring for their orientation will be excited about,” Stefan said. “He likes to be strong along the
camps after they were drafted, and have been very impressed by how boards, likes to work the corners, goes to the net very well. He scores
things have been around Flint and Grand Blanc and the school systems. a lot of goals by powering himself to the net. He’s a pretty intelligent
The families and players have loved it. We’re looking for that to continue.” player and good team guy, so I think he’s going to fit in very well here.”
The team’s top pick in 2016, Ty Dellandrea, showed promise for the The Firebirds stuck closer to home with the first of their two

Keppen Luke


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second-round picks, taking defenseman Marcus Gretz of Macomb, games last season for the Athens Aeros of the Tier 2 Central Canada
Michigan 23rd overall. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Gretz had four goals Hockey League.
and 12 assists in 32 games with the Belle Tire AAA team last season. The Firebirds’ philosophy in the 2017 draft was to fill needs. They
“He’s a local Michigan boy who we had our eyes on early on,” Stefan got two big defensemen, a bruising forward and a potential future
said. “He’s a late birthday, so he’s got a few years to develop before starting goaltender.
his NHL draft year. It’s tough to pass up on that size and his ability, “There’s an identity we’re trying to build as a team,” Firebirds’ coach
especially being a local kid. He and his family were excited early on Ryan Oulahen said. “That’s how you draft. You draft to your identity. You
about playing in Flint. We wanted to make that happen as best we could. draft to the player you need. The players the Flint Firebirds love could be
It’ll be a comfortable fit for him.” different than what other teams covet. That’s probably because of their
With their second pick in the second round, the Firebirds made Luke style of play.”
Cavallin of Greely, Ontario the first goaltender taken in the draft at No. Barclay Branch wasn’t on board as the Firebirds’ general manager until
28 overall. Cavallin was considered the top goaltending prospect in the after the draft, but he was familiar with this year’s crop of prospects from
draft after posting a 2.22 goals against average and .920 save percentage his role as GM and head scout of the Sudbury Wolves the last two seasons.
in 25 games with the Kemptville 73’s AAA team. He gave a thumbs-up to the work done by Stefan and former GM,
Cavallin was among seven of the top under-17 netminders with OHL George Burnett.
ties who were selected for Canada’s ‘Program of Excellence’ goalie camp “I know the players who were drafted by Flint very well, so I feel
in June in Calgary. there’s a bit of a head start,” Branch said. “It’s a really strong draft, a
“We thought he was the best overall goalie throughout the season very strong group of prospects. The scouting staff, led by Joe Stefan
and he got better as the year went on,” Stefan said. “It was one of our and Dave McParlan, did a tremendous job. They have a very strong
needs. We need to build up our goalie depth. We had an extra second- reputation within the Ontario Hockey League for being really good
round pick, so we thought it was a good time to hopefully get our goalie talent evaluators. They did a very good job at the draft table. That’s
of the future.” the most important piece in building an organization. Those are the
Also committing to Flint was defenseman Zack Pilon of Smiths Falls, bloodlines for your hockey club.” ■
Ontario. Pilon was a fourth-round pick, 67th overall.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Pilon had six goals and 16 assists in 44

Kyle Jack
Harris Zach
Wismer Pilon


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1160 S. ELMS RD.


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I-75 Cup: The Rivalry Heats Up

his season, the hockey rivalry between Flint and Saginaw has level excitement, with the winner being determined on the final shift of
an opportunity to be showcased before more fans than ever. the final game between the teams.
The Flint Firebirds and Saginaw Spirit requested better dates for Mathieu Henderson buried a backhander from the slot 37 seconds
their rivalry games after five of their meetings last season were played on into overtime to give Flint a 6-5 victory and a 5-3 series victory at Dort
nights when attendance is typically lower.. They played on school nights five Federal Event Center. It was the highlight of the season for the Firebirds,
times, with two Fridays and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving being the who missed the playoffs in their inaugural season.
only prime dates. Last year, the winner of the hardware was already determined
The games between the Firebirds and Spirit will be featured on five when the teams met for the final time, with Flint holding a 5-2 series
prime nights this season: three Saturdays, a Friday, and the Wednesday lead before losing a 5-4 shootout vs Saginaw. Winning the Coors
before Thanksgiving. Light I-75 Divide Cup last season was of secondary importance on
Part of the reason Flint and Saginaw had so many midweek and Sunday the list of accomplishments, as the Firebirds made the OHL playoffs.
games was that the proximity between the cities made travel easier for players The series with Saginaw included some of the highlights of the
than if they played on those nights in other Ontario Hockey League cities. regular season for the Firebirds.
“It will make it The Firebirds provided a signal that things would be different
even easier for in their second season, with first-round draft pick Ty Dellandrea
both fan bases to scoring on his first OHL shift just 63 seconds into the game and
travel,” Firebirds Matthew Menna making 23 saves in a 4-0 shutout.
President Costa In a considerably more competitive game in Flint on December
Papista said. “The 30, Henderson was once again the overtime hero, scoring with eight
league worked with us seconds left in the extra period to give the Firebirds a 3-2 victory.
and helped us there. On January 10 in Saginaw, the Firebirds fired home a franchise-
We communicated to record 11 goals. “The fans definitely got into those games,” Flint forward
the league office that we Nicholas Caamano said. “We’re only 35 minutes away from each other.
wanted more of these games There’s definitely a rivalry there. It’s a good game to come and watch.”
to be played on weekends if The current members of the Firebirds and Spirit are engaged in
they could make that happen, a rivalry that dates back to 1972 when both cities had franchises in
and they did.” the old International Hockey League (IHL). The rivalry was briefly
Attendance should also be interrupted in 1983 when the Saginaw Gears folded, but it became
boosted by a new perk for season heated when the Flint Generals moved to Saginaw in 1985. The
ticket holders in both cities. As part expansion Flint Spirits team filled the void that season, beginning a
of the season ticket package, fans can four-year rivalry between the current Flint franchise and the former
attend all four road games their team Flint franchise.
plays in Flint or Saginaw. IHL hockey ended in Saginaw after the 1988-89 season and in
“This should really help stimulate the rivalry Flint a year later. The rivalry resumed for parts of six seasons in
even more,” Papista added. the Colonial/United Hockey League before going dormant for 16
The Firebirds and Spirit have a tangible seasons. It was back on when the Plymouth Whalers were sold and
reward for the winner of their rivalry: moved to Flint in 2015.
the Coors Light I-75 Divide Cup. The The eight-game season series between Flint and Saginaw will begin
Firebirds have won the trophy in each November 1 at the Dow Event Center. The teams will play twice in
of its first two seasons, winning three nights November 22 in Flint and November 24 in Saginaw.
five of eight games both seasons The other games are December 15 in Flint, December 30 in Saginaw,
between the rivals. January 31 in Flint, February 3 in Saginaw and February 17 in Flint.
In the Firebirds’ first season, the Sarnia, an hour east of Flint, is the only other OHL rival the
quest for the trophy took on playoff- Firebirds face eight times. ■


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Fundraising Opportunities!

he Flint Firebirds’ “FUN”draiser program is a win-win for “When schools or church groups or hockey teams sell these
the franchise and for groups looking to raise money. tickets to their family, friends and neighbors, it should really
Local organizations and teams can sell a voucher good help us get some new faces into the building to experience the
for a $15 Silver Level seat at Dort Federal Event Center and keep OHL product and see the renovations that have been done to the
$5 of each sale. building,” Papista said. “I continue to run into lots of people who
“It will help these organizations raise money and, at the same say they haven’t been in the building in over 20 years. This is one
time, it will help us grow our reach and our attendance,” Firebirds way to expand our reach.”
President, Costa Papista said. Papista said this is yet another way for the Firebirds to help
The program started late last season, with about a dozen groups raise money for groups in the Flint area. In their first two
participating. Papista said there were already 50 groups raising seasons, the Firebirds raised $200,000 for local organizations.
money with the vouchers over the summer. Groups looking to participate can contact Dominic Gutierrez
“This year, we’ll probably end up with over 100 groups doing at 810.701.8536 or They can also fill
it,” he said. “The voucher itself looks phenomenal – it looks like out a form online at ■
professional ticket our season ticket holders recieve.”
There is a 50-ticket minimum for groups seeking to participate in
the program. Purchasers can take their voucher to the Dort Federal
Event Center box office to receive a ticket to a game. That voucher
is then put into a drawing for prizes.

Karen B. Jones /


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By Mitchell Miller

the 2017-18 hockey season is set to begin, this
year marks the third-straight season that the Flint
Firebirds have held their training camp and pre-
season practices at Flint Iceland Arenas, a partnership that allows
the Firebirds’ organization to utilize the ice and facilities to prepare
for another campaign in the prestigious Ontario Hockey League
(OHL). Flint Iceland Arenas is the official practice facility of the
Firebirds and is located on Elms Road in Clayton Township, just a

Lorraine Swanson /

15-minute drive from the Dort Federal Event Center.
“To have an arena like this available to an OHL team really
makes our entire program much better for everyone involved,”
said Rolf Nilsen, Owner of the Flint Firebirds Hockey Club, the
Dort Federal Event Center and Flint Iceland Arenas.
An arena that is suitable for an OHL hockey club comes
with high expectations, and Nilsen has continued to upgrade
Iceland Arenas each year since he took over as the sole owner in
December 2014.
“We just finished installing new LED lightning in August,
which will make the arena safer for players and more suitable
for professional photographers and videographers,” Nilsen said.
“It’s a big improvement to not have shadows on the ice anymore.
We’ve also repainted the walls and the locker rooms to match the
‘Firebirds Blue,’ and plan to continue making improvements to
this building through regular maintenance each year.”
Although catering to hockey players and figure skaters is a big
part of Flint Iceland Arenas, the complex facilitates other sports, The facility offers public skating starting at $5 on Friday
as well. Several upgrades over the past few years have improved and Saturday nights at 9PM, learn-to-skate programs
business significantly. on Wednesday and Saturday nights, senior hockey on
“We have a 17,000 square-foot indoor soccer field on one Wednesday and Friday mornings, and drop-in soccer on
side of the complex and we offer an additional turf facility on Tuesday nights.
the other side that baseball, softball and lacrosse teams utilize “This is a family,” said Nilsen. “I love it, I love this
during the winter months,” added Flint Iceland Arenas General community and I love to see the programs that we have in
Manager, Jason Lyon. “This fall, we will add batting cages to the place. We have all the resources here and want to continue to
turf facility and will start indoor soccer leagues in the near future. be the preferred sports facility in Genesee County.”
Diversifying our business and being here to serve the community For event times and other information regarding Flint
by offering a wide array of athletics is something we hold to the Iceland Arenas, visit, or contact Jason Lyon at
highest importance.” 810.635.8487/ ■


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Proud to be official team doctors of the Flint Firebirds.

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