Thunderbirds Name Andre Niec Head Coach

Winston-Salem, NC - The Carolina Thunderbirds named Andre Niec of Ostrava, Czech Republic, as the team’s Director of Hockey Operations and Head Coach. Andre’s playing background includes stops in Austria, Czech Republic, England, France, United Hockey League, Southern Professional Hockey League, and Federal Hockey League. In Austria, he coached junior hockey and was a player coach. In his first full season as Head Coach of the Berlin River Drivers, he took a last place team from the previous year and finished second in the FHL with a 28-21-3 record. Under his direction, the team took the heavily favored Danville Dashers to a fifth and deciding game, losing in Game 5 of the Championship round.  Last season, Berlin finished 1st in goals scored, 2nd in goals against, and 1st in penalty minutes in the FHL. 

Thunderbirds Owner Barry Soskin commented, “We got our man. I was impressed with what Andre did in Berlin and was interested when he became available. The Annex will be the toughest building to play in with our expected crowd and the community's passion for hockey, but Andre will build a team that the fans of Winston-Salem will really enjoy watching.”  

“I am honored and excited to be part of the Thunderbirds family and the Triad, and look forward to living in Winston-Salem. I will be following up on the successful Expansion Draft and make sure those players report, plus fill in the remaining roster. I appreciate the opportunity Mr. Soskin and the organization has provided, and I look forward to continuing the championship winning heritage Winston-Salem is known for,” added Andre.

Coach Andre’s first duty will be bittersweet, as he will be selecting for the Thunderbirds from the Berlin River Driver’s Dispersal Draft scheduled for this week. He is currently in Europe and is expected to move to the Triad in mid-July along with his wife, Karolina. 

In other news, the Thunderbirds team is working to finalize a tryout camp in late September in Ohio, followed by a training camp in Winston-Salem starting October 18th. Team General Manager Scott Brand said, “We are working on finalizing our Training Camp plans, and I can’t thank the City and the Annex enough for working with us.  They have been tremendous working with our organization. Right now, we are looking to bring about 30 players into Winston-Salem, play some intersquad games to pick our final team, and get ready for the season opener the first weekend in November.” 

The team expects to announce the schedule later in the week. Season tickets, group sales, team advertising, and promotional opportunities are available by contacting the Thunderbirds office at (336) 774-4625. The Thunderbirds are members of the 7 team Federal Hockey League which begins its 8th season of operation in November.