Greetings, Solar Bears fans! Tomorrow you’ll probably be Celebrating the Fourth of July at the beach, soaking up those summer rays, and enjoying some hot dogs along with your favorite adult beverage, and waiting for some festive fireworks – cheers to you!
Before you know it, summer’s going to be over. But with Opening Night still over 100 days away, I understand that you might be getting a little anxious waiting for hockey season to get here. Fear not: while we celebrate our nation’s independence today, we’ve got a special Fourth of July edition of the Broadcast Blog.
Did you know that in the six-season history of the ECHL Solar Bears, there have been 119 American players (per eliteprospects.com) who have worn the purple, teal and orange?
Of those 119 players, there are a select few – 16 by my count – who have had the privilege of wearing the Red, White and Blue in appearances for the National Development Team Program or representing their country in international tournaments such as the IIHF World Junior Championships.
They are as follows: Tyler Biggs, John Curry, Alex Gacek, Cal Heeter, Blake Kessel, Ben Johnson, Bryce Lampman, Chad LaRose, Sean Lorenz, Joe Marciano, J.J. Piccinich, Adam Reid, Garret Sparks, Zach Stepan and Sean Zimmerman.
Here’s a closer look at some notable ones:
Top Five Team USA Solar Bears:
5) Blake Kessel – 2013-15
While attending the University of New Hampshire, Blake Kessel joined the Americans for the 2009 World Junior Championships held in Canada. He played in six games, registering one assist.
4) Garret Sparks – 2013-16
Although he did not make an appearance in the 2013 World Junior Championships, Sparks was still named to Team USA’s roster and earned a gold medal as the Americans defeated Sweden for the country’s third first-place finish in the history of the U20 tournament.
3) Sean Zimmerman – 2017-18
Last season’s captain for the Solar Bears played for the Americans in 2007 at the World Junior Championships, helping Team USA capture the bronze medal with a 2-1 victory over host Sweden. Zimmerman is located on the left in the photo above.
2) C.J. Severyn – 2012-14
Severyn suited up twice on the international stage for the Americans, earning a silver medal in at the U17 tournament in 2006, and another silver medal at the U18 tournament in 2007.
1) Tyler Biggs – 2014-15
Although Biggs’ stint with Orlando was brief, he represented the national team several times at the junior and international levels and always seemed to bring home the gold, helping the United States earn top honors at the U17 tournament in 2010, U18 tournaments in 2010 and 2011, and the U20 tournament in 2013.
It also seems appropriate to give an honorable mention to Derrick Burnett, who played his college hockey at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, and played for the Solar Bears in 2012-13 while stationed at Cape Canaveral as a second lieutenant in the Air Force with the 45th Space Wing, 1st Range Operations Squadron. Click the link above for a very cool story from ESPN that profiled Burnett’s stint with the Solar Bears – it doesn’t get more patriotic than that!
The United States has had some rock-solid jersey choices over the years. So with that in mind, I also decided to compose a list of my Top Five jerseys worn by the men and women who represent our country playing the greatest game in the world.
Top Five Team USA Jerseys:
5) 1996 World Cup of Hockey
After the Canada Cup morphed into the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, there were still doubters of America’s prowess as a hockey nation. The inaugural World Cup was the coming out party for the likes of Brett Hull, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk and Mike Richter, who announced to the rest of the world that the Americans should be respected as a hockey power. These were the American hockey jerseys of my youth, and they screamed that they were a product of the 1990s. Sure, they were a little gaudy. But you know something? They were the perfect uniform for that group of players. And that best-of-three final series with Canada was the stuff of legend.
4) 2018 Olympics – PyeongChang, South Korea
Simply put, I loved the most recent version of the Team USA sweater. It helped that the women earned their first gold at the Olympics in 20 years in them, when Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Maddie Rooney led the Americans to a 3-2 shootout win over the Canadians to give the Red, White and Blue the gold. The jerseys are a nice blend of old and new. The look may be a little too modern for some, but I think these sweaters could are perfectly suited to the next wave of America hockey stars.
3) 2014 Olympics – Sochi, Russia
After the International Olympic Committee ruled that national teams could not wear their governing body’s logo on their jerseys in Olympic competition starting with the 2010 Vancouver games, it forced the United States to experiment with some new looks. I think the 2014 jerseys were a
grand slam Game 7 overtime winner. While the men’s team struck out on winning a medal in Sochi, T.J. Oshie never looked better as he put on a show in the shootout against the Russians. The women took home the hardware with a silver medal finish, despite suffering a heartbreaking loss to Canada.
2) 1980 Olympics – Lake Placid, N.Y.
I know, you’re probably thinking that I’m committing hockey heresy, but hear me out. Is the Miracle on Ice arguably the greatest moment in American sports history? Without a doubt, you’re not going to hear me dispute that. I love the jerseys – when I think of American sports, images of Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione and Jack O’Callahan pop into my head. It’s just a matter of personal preference that leads us to my top pick for favorite USA hockey jersey…
1) 1960 Olympics – Squaw Valley, Calif.
Fun fact: Take a look in the bottom left of the team portrait – yep, that’s the late Herb Brooks, head coach of the 1980 squad, who was the last cut on the American roster in 1960 before the team departed for the start of the Squaw Valley games.
There’s nothing better than a classic. People often forget or overlook the fact that Team USA’s first Olympic victory in ice hockey did not in fact come at Lake Placid, but rather two decades prior in California. It’s a timeless look that isn’t too flashy and evokes stirrings of pride. It’s such a classic look that Team USA broke it out again as a throwback in 2010 and 2014. Perfection.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) February 16, 2014
All right, Solar Bears fans – that’s all for now. Enjoy the rest of your holiday plans, and wherever you are, have a safe and happy Fourth of July – now cue the grand finale music!
Jesse Liebman is the director of communications & broadcasting for the Solar Bears and enters his fourth season with Orlando in 2018-19. E-mail him at email@example.com with questions, comments or blog ideas.