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Local News

Ice Flyers Look For Third Straight President's Cup

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Training camp begins Wednesday for the Pensacola Ice Flyers, as they prepare to defend their third President’s Cup, the Southern Professional Hockey League championship, in the past four years.

When we last heard from the Ice Flyers in May, forward Josh Cousineau sent into a frenzy about 4,900 fans in the Pensacola Bay Center, aka “The Hangar,”  by scoring with one-tenth of a second remaining in regulation time to beat Peoria 5-4.

Since then, there have been changes. Rod Aldoff, who led the Ice Flyers to back-to-back championships, is now coaching the Norfolk Admirals in the ECHL.

Enter the new guy behind the bench, at the team’s recent fan and media night, introduced by team owner Greg Harris.

“The fourth head coach in Ice Flyers history, Kevin Hasselberg,” Harris said. “[The search] was a good process, even though it took a little bit longer.”

Hasselberg, 40, a native of Brooks, Alberta, has spent the last five seasons as coach and general manager of the Battlefords North Stars in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He told the gathering one of the reasons he came south was – Greg Harris.

“If he wasn’t as thorough as he was in the process I probably wouldn’t have even earned an interview,” said Hasselberg. “But it’s because of his thoughtful process, and his thoroughness in what he wanted in a coach. This is a business of entertainment and player development, and those are the things that are going to factor into making decisions.”

Hasselberg says despite players’ personal feelings towards him – at Battlefords and now in Pensacola – he expects everyone to be on the same page of the hymnal.

“Some of them don’t like me, and I can’t guarantee that all the players here will like me, but they’ll respect what we’re about and why doing this,” said Hasselberg. “And it’s all to make each other better. It’s to raise the bar – you’re going to hear that a lot this year.”

Among the fans at the Bay Center for the meet-and-greet was Tammy Waymeier of Navarre and her husband, who became fans rooting for the old Pensacola Ice Pilots two decades ago.

So, what draws her to hockey?

“I think it’s because it’s not real difficult to understand,” said Waymeier. “The rules are fairly simple and it’s fast-paced and it’s just and exciting game. There’s no game like it.”

After the formal announcement, new coach Kevin Hasselberg spoke about taking over the reigning SPHL champions and going after a “three-peat.” Rather than feeling like there’s a target on his chest, he says it’s actually respect.

“The coaches and players that have earned success with the Pensacola Ice Flyers in past seasons have set the bar,” said Hasselberg. “And that bar can be raised. If you can go into anything thinking you can improve, and know that you can better it, then that’s what our focus is going to be.”

Opening night for the Pensacola Ice Flyers is October 21 at the Bay Center, a-k-a “The Hangar,” against the Fayetteville FireAntz. Players expected to return from last year’s team include league scoring champion Corey Banfield; goalie John McLean, and Josh Cousineau.