Players face Quad-City Storm head coach Dave Pszenyczny during training camp Wednesday at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline. The Storm are in their inaugural season in the Southern Professional Hockey League and will open the season tonight.
The Quad-City Storm open its inaugural season as members of the Southern Professional Hockey League on Saturday night against the Peoria Rivermen, marking the 24th straight season hockey has been played in the Quad-Cities. Here are five things to know about the new team.
New name, same game
It's still hockey and the rules are the same, even though everything else has changed in the last six months.
The Quad-City Mallards ceased ECHL operations in April after owner Jordan Melville decided he no longer wished to support the team.
After more than a month of searching, TaxSlayer executive director Scott Mullen found two Quad-City residents willing to become owners of the newest SPHL franchise, Ryan Mosley and John Dawson.
The owners decided on the new name of the Quad-City Storm in June and hired Dave Pszenyczny as the first head coach in franchise history. The Storm also hired Eldridge native Gwen Tombergs as team president, the first female president in league history.
The last four months have been spent finding sponsors for the team and building a roster to be ready for Saturday night.
From player to coach
Pszenyczny is entering his first job as head coach after finishing a 12-year playing career last season.
The 33-year-old, Sterling Heights, Michigan, native's playing career included stops in the American Hockey League, ECHL, Central Hockey League and SPHL, finishing last year with the Peoria Rivermen.
He won a championship in the now-defunct CHL in 2011 with the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs.
In his career, the defenseman played 664 games, scoring 91 goals and adding 229 assists and had 1,364 penalty minutes in his career.
Now he gets his first chance behind the bench as he leads the Storm into its inaugural season.
"I don't think you could have written it up any better for me," he said. "When I was thinking about coaching, I was thinking about the process of having to be an assistant first to get my feet wet. This is pretty much being thrown to the wolves but what better opportunity with everybody being new, in this league, I can make a name for myself."
A different league
The SPHL is the sixth professional hockey league in the Quad-Cities in the last 24 years.
In terms of minor league hockey, the SPHL is similar to A-level baseball, with the ECHL being AA and the AHL being AAA.
The league was founded in 2004 and is made up of 10 teams in eight states. The Huntsville Havoc won the President's Cup last season, defeating the Peoria Rivermen two games to one.
With the majority of the league located in the southeastern United States, the Storm will have its fair share of travel ahead of them this season.
However, there is some solace in the closest trip being a 98-mile drive down I-74 to Peoria, a route the two teams will make frequently this year. The Storm and Rivermen will play each other 16 times this season, eight games in the Quad-Cities and eight in Peoria.
The Storm's longest trip will be a 985-mile trip to Pensacola, Florida, to face the Pensacola Ice Flyers, which both teams will make just once this year.
The SPHL plays a 56-game regular schedule and the Storm will have 28 home games. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
The Storm want to make sure it is involved in the community more than some past teams. Already there has been a noticeable increase in the team's social media presence as well as commercials on television.
"The Quad-City Storm have made a commitment to be the community's team," Tombergs said. "We want to make sure we came out of the gate by giving back to the community."
Besides an increased advertising effort, the Storm will donate a portion of proceeds from various in-game promotions to charities and chose five games this season, including Saturday's game, to donate a portion of the ticket sales to various charities.
Single game tickets range from $10-$30 and each home game will feature a promotion, starting with an indoor fireworks and lights show on Saturday night.
For ticket information, visit the TaxSlayer Center box office, go to www.quadcitystorm.com or call 309-277-1364.