Matt Carkner was announced as the fifth coach in Orlando Solar Bears history on June 20, 2022.
Carkner, 41, comes to Orlando after spending five seasons (2016-21) in the professional coaching ranks as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, now known as the Bridgeport Islanders. While part of Bridgeport’s coaching staff, Carkner oversaw the team’s defensive zone schemes and penalty-killing unit, in addition to handling individual player skill development, video pre-scouting and analytics. During that time, Carkner aided in the development of current NHL defensemen including Sebastian Aho, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews.
Carkner’s coaching experience also includes serving as assistant coach of the Mid Fairfield (Conn.) Rangers during the 2021-22 season, helping guide the team to a quarterfinal appearance at the 2022 USA Hockey Tier I 14U National Championships.
In addition to coaching the Solar Bears, Carkner will be responsible for overseeing the club’s hockey operations – including managing support staff, recruiting and signing players and coordinating with both the Tampa Bay Lightning and AHL’s Syracuse Crunch as the coach of Tampa Bay’s ECHL affiliate – and supporting the local youth hockey initiatives of the Solar Bears.
As a player, Carkner enjoyed a 15-year professional career that included 237 games in the National Hockey League with the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders, where he recorded 27 points (4g-23a) and 556 penalty minutes. Carkner also played 587 games in the American Hockey League, collecting 152 points (36g-116a) and 1,756 penalty minutes with the Cleveland Barons, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Binghamton Senators and Bridgeport. Carkner served as team captain while with Cleveland and held alternate captain roles for each AHL club he played for. Carkner was named the recipient of the AHL’s Yanick Dupré Memorial Award in 2006-07 for his community involvement.
Carkner was a second-round pick (58th overall) by the Montréal Canadiens in the 1999 NHL Draft, and played four seasons of major junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League with the Peterborough Petes prior to turning pro, serving as team captain in his final two seasons.
A native of Winchester, Ontario, Carkner and his wife Kary have two children, Chase and Corbin, and are involved with the Capital City Condors (Ottawa) and Long Island Blues (N.Y.), adapted hockey team programs for players with special needs.