The game of hockey has always been ingrained in the culture of North America, with Canada and the United States being two of the biggest powerhouses in the sport. From the National Hockey League (NHL) to the Olympic Games, hockey has captivated audiences with its action and passionate fans. But the real heart of the game lies at its grassroots level—minor hockey. And one team that has been making headlines in this world of minor hockey is the Flint Firebirds.
Based in Flint, Michigan, the Flint Firebirds are a junior ice hockey team that competes in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), which is a major junior league for players between the ages of 16 and 21. The team has only been in existence for four years, but they have already made a name for themselves in the hockey world.
However, it has been a tale of two seasons for the Flint Firebirds—one of success during the regular season and another of disappointment during the playoffs. In this article, we take a closer look at the performance of the Firebirds in both of these seasons and analyze what led to their ultimate downfall.
Regular Season Success
In their inaugural season in 2015-2016, the Flint Firebirds finished with an overall record of 20-44-2-2, which was not a strong start for the new team. However, they quickly turned things around and came back strong in the following season, finishing with a record of 32-28-3-5 and making it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
But the real turning point came in the 2017-2018 season, when the Firebirds finished with an impressive 38-25-2-3 record, earning them a third-place finish in their division. Led by their captain, Ty Dellandrea, who set a franchise record with 63 points, the Firebirds made it to the playoffs once again, marking their second consecutive appearance.
Despite their strong regular season, the Flint Firebirds have had a hard time clinching key victories in the playoffs. In their first playoff appearance in the 2016–2017 season, the Firebirds lost in the first round to the Sarnia Sting in a four-game sweep. This disappointment was followed by a similar fate in the 2018 playoffs, where they were once again swept in the first round by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
In the 2019 playoffs, the Firebirds showed some improvement by winning their first playoff game against the Saginaw Spirit, but ultimately fell short in the second round against the London Knights. This season, despite a strong start in the playoffs by winning their first two games, the Flint Firebirds once again saw their playoff run come to an end in the second round against the Kitchener Rangers.
As of now, the Flint Firebirds have not made it past the second round of the playoffs, which leaves fans and analysts questioning what really goes wrong for this team when it comes down to the wire.
Behind the Scenes Drama
One of the key insights into the playoff struggles for the Firebirds could be the off-ice issues that have been plaguing the team since its inception. In their first season, the team faced controversy when its ownership fired the coaching staff mid-season, and players subsequently walked out in protest, leading to their eventual reinstatement.
Similarly, in the 2016–2017 season, the team faced a similar internal struggle when multiple players were released from the team due to “violation of team rules.” This off-ice drama has not only affected the team’s performance but also led to rapid turnover in the coaching staff and front office, resulting in a lack of stability for the players.
The Flint Firebirds have shown significant improvement in their four years of existence, going from one of the worst teams in the league to a strong regular-season contender. However, the team needs to address their playoff struggles and internal conflicts in order to take the next step towards success.
With new ownership and a strong core of players, including NHL prospects Ty Dellandrea and Ethan Keppen, the Flint Firebirds have the potential to break their playoff curse and make it to the OHL finals. As they prepare for the 2020–2021 season, it remains to be seen if they can turn their regular-season success into postseason glory.
The Flint Firebirds are a team with an immense amount of potential but also a plethora of challenges. From their strong regular-season performance to their consistent playoff disappointments, the Firebirds have captured the attention of hockey fans around North America. With a talented roster and a loyal fanbase, the future looks promising for the Flint Firebirds, and only time will tell if they can finally break through and become a force to be reckoned with in the OHL playoffs.