EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The Evansville Thunderbolts are succeeding with a new roster, new coach, and new front office.
From the time the Thunderbolts came to Evansville for the 2016 season, the results have been mixed. The team only posted one winning season in the last three years; the worst of which was a twelve win season in 2018-19.
Following that season, change came to the Ford Center in the form of a new general manager, a new coach, and a roster full of new talent. That’s a lot of unknowns for a franchise, but the fresh start is a breath of fresh air.
“If you come out to a game, we’re going to make you a fan," said Patrick Kelly. Kell serves as the new general manager for the Thunderbolts. "We just want you to come out to one game and see what we’re doing.”
Kelly says the process began by addressing the problems facing a franchise that had only made the playoffs one time in its history.
“People used to like coming to games and for one reason or another, whether they found the games weren’t entertaining or the team wasn’t competitive, they just stopped coming. So to get the reengagement of the fans, not only our season ticket holders, but our corporate base, but the casual fans, it will help these guys win and even be more competitive on the ice because we’ll have that hometown roar in the building," said Kelly. “First thing we had to do was you know pretty much change the way everything’s been done in the past and then get the buy-in. Especially on the front office side. We’ve increased our sponsorships, we’ve increased season tickets, and now it’s about getting the casual fan back.”
Both Kelly and Thunderbolts President Scott Schoenike say that winning and instilling a mindset of winning is a good way to reengage those fans. That’s exactly what the team has done too. In the last twelve games dating back to Saturday, November 23rd, the Thunderbolts are 10-2. Evansville also posted a franchise-best six-game winning streak during that stretch of games.
“You gotta want to win and you gotta feel like a winner," said team president Scott Schoenike. "You start winning and it just kind of snowballs and you feel like you’re going to win the next game.”
“It’s so much more enjoyable to be going neck to neck and winning out in shootout and winning the games. It just helps the attitude," he continued. "It helps you come out and I think the fans have kind of gotten on the, not so much the bandwagon because they were there win or lose. You know they were there last year, but it’s so much easier to be a fan.”
The Thunderbolts next take to the ice on New Year’s Eve. The team will host the Huntsville Havoc at the Ford Center. They’ll be handing out 2020 calendars and there will be a post-game fireworks show on the ice.
Puck drops Tuesday night at 7:15.