Perennial favourites and two time Downsview Park Champions and reaching the finals in every Downsview Park season to date the Toronto Thunder will look to continue the streak in 2012. With every season and year come change and the Thunder were the busiest team in the off season trading and obtaining close to twenty players in multiple moves that have led to the revamping of a veteran lineup. In a blockbuster trade GM Tony Faria shipped off four core veterans Danny Pacheco, Andy Pacheco, Glen Bradbury and Ricky DaPonte to the Metro Orangemen which started the domino effect which saw new faces brought in to a re-energize the Thunder. With the group of dispersal draft picks and players collected in the blockbuster trade Faria managed to turn them in to 24 year old and two time Premier MVP Charlie Giffin, power forward Nelson Soares and defensemen Steven Huffman. Faria also signed free agents Vince Capone and Ralph Pellicori to multiyear deals and the new look Thunder were born.
Adding Pellicori the Thunder added a veteran keeper to take the pressure off number one goaltender Dan Giffin and reunites the two goaltenders that have played as a tandem together with the Mississauga Hawks just two years ago. Giffin is a world class goaltender and will reap the bulk of the playing time but Pellicori can hold his own and give the Thunder the best one two punch in goal of all the teams in the Premier Division. With the goaltender position solidified Faria turned his attention to the back line.
Returning rear guard Kal Kakish will anchor a defence group that will need to find a way to fill the minutes that Danny Pacheco was used to playing. New faces brought in were Huffman via trade, Sergio Gomes and Patrick Moran via free agency they will form a group with Dom Crnogorac, Kakish and Rui Martins that will be a tough collective group to play against. The Thunder currently also owns the rights to young defenseman Rob Cardoso who may still fetch them another key piece to finishing the puzzle. The questions is can this group hold the fort down when the going gets tough in the do or die games of the Premier post season.
Offensively the Thunder may house the best four lines of forwards in the division. Where do we start, the Thunder have the Premiers top forward award winners the last two summer seasons. Massimo Principe and Marco Goncalves are two of the top scoring forwards in the game today that have the ability to out point any two duos in the sport today. Goncalves has been nursing a back injury and has seen limited duty to date. Paul Duarte rounds out the threesome and is the top elite playmaker in the game and can thread a needle with his accurate passes. Let’s not forget Giffin, Soares, Paolo Celebre, Captain Danny Filice, Capone, Daniel Freitas, Jason Arruda and chief agitator Matt Hebbes. Thunder are four lines deep that can run with anyone in the division.
Special teams always play a big part in any team’s success and with the arrival of Giffin to quarterback the PP the Thunder improved on an already dangerous odd man advantage group. Long time Thunder player and supporter Nilton Soares has been brought in as a member of the bench staff to add knowledge and experience behind the bench. After all the off season moves and new faces the Thunder look ready to roll to another Downsview Park Championship season with all the cards falling into place.
Our exclusive interview from the Thunder is their big off season acquisition All Star Forward Charlie Giffin. Charlie welcome to your exclusive interview and first as a member of the Toronto Thunder, a class act and top drawer individual I’m sure this will be an interview everyone in the ball hockey world will log on to read.
Charlie let’s start by giving everyone a quick history of how you got started in Premier and when you started playing Orange Ball?
A great friend of the Giffin brothers (Matt Hill) introduced us to “Orange Ball” 10 years ago as a training method for ice hockey. We played for the Tier 4 North Stars and I remember watching my first Premier game at Port Credit arena. The sultan of the orange ball (#Chrissy #Magic #99) was out there ripping around, and the level of play looked unattainable. Ranbir Singh provided us with a shot at Premier in 2008 and it was incredible to finally make ‘the show’. The presence of legendary gatekeeper Ralph Pellicori, the sultan of knocking the net off, forced my brother to leave in 2010. A big blow for me obviously, losing Dan to a rival franchise, but I was loyal to Ranbir for providing me with that sacred Premier opportunity (at least it used to be sacred). Thank you RS16 - miss you bud!
With the upcoming World Ball Hockey Federation Championships coming up you have a chance to represent Canada at the highest level of Ball Hockey how does that make you feel?
I’ll never forget my favourite hockey memory - scoring a goal at Michigan State University, silencing 6,500 Spartan fans and having my old man in the stands - a proud moment to share after all his hard work and sacrifice. Point is, even a magical accomplishment will always fall back on how we share it with family. Representing my country at the WBHF Championships will be something I proudly tell my own kids about one day...enough said.
The Hawks were your first and only Premier team why the move to the Thunder?
Ranbir left for Vancouver this past summer and it was time to play with my brother again. However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I would still run through a wall for Raja Sohal, Raj Sandhu and Adrian Goddard. These guys were with me in Winnipeg, beating out the Montreal Black Knights for a 2009 Canadian Nationals Bronze medal.
Do you see yourself as a goal scorer or a passer?
I played on a line with Steve Cardoso and Dave Spadea. I got a chance to play with one of the best players in the world in Matt Tremblett. More recently, I picked up a few shifts with Paul Duarte. So, to answer your question, I would consider myself lucky more than anything else.
Moving forward can the Thunder capture their first Premier Summer Championship?
The parity in the league has improved drastically and everyone has a solid chance come playoff time. I will admit, losing Danny Pacheco on the back-end is a massive hole to fill, but if “all-heart” guys like Jason Arruda, Marco Goncalves, Paolo Celebre and Nelson Soares are committed...I like our chances.
Who has had the biggest impact on your Ball Hockey career to date and why?
Bob Dourmissis. He showed me how to have fun again after concussions ended my brief professional hockey career. This loser is one of my best friends in the world and a lock for my wedding party. Thinking about you every single day brother - get well soon!
If you could sit and speak to any three people in history who would they be?
1) Doug Gilmour/Wayne Gretzky - after the Game 6 “non-call” during 1993 Leafs-Kings series . 2) Greg Norman - after 1996 collapse at the Masters. 3) Grandmother Hester (mother’s side), who I never have the privilege of knowing.
Tell us what posters you had on your walls as a teenager growing up?
Cam Neely, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros and Jarome Iginla.
With all the top forwards you’ve played with to date, who along with yourself would comprise the top line ever?
Tony Montiero and Dampy Brar.
How did it feel, having to play against your brother when he moved to the Thunder two years ago?
I tried to rip a shot off his melon.
What would be your dream occupation?
Stanley Cup Protector. That guy has probably seen some things...imagine going everywhere the cup goes?? Wow.
What team gives you the most fits playing against?
Orangemen, specifically Chris Creador.
If you had one wish what would it be?
Easy. Scoring the Game 7 Cup winner in OT.
What are your thoughts on the NHL lockout?
Some of these guys won’t come back even if it does end, because it’s insane over there with the singing, chanting, flares, drums, crazy fans, etc. I also feel bad for the rink employees, the guys that sell peanuts and beer for a living.
Give us the goals that you have set for yourself in your first season as a member of the Thunder?
Tony Faria is an old school, no messing around type of guy, who was very clear about what he expects. I have to be accountable for all three zones or I’ll be riding the pine. I’m not 20 years old anymore, so it’s time to mature and become a complete player, which I’m fully prepared to do moving forward.
*** Thank you, Pete. You do a lion’s share of the work for this league and we appreciate it more than you know. Wishing you and your family good health and happiness heading into 2013.***