2011-2012 Texas Tornado Season Preview

The Tornado Extend the Lead to 4-0 on This Goal

[Editors note: Please welcome Nick C. to the DBD group of contributors. Nick will be providing us with weekly updates on the progress of the Texas Tornado season to go along with weekly reports on the Texas Stars and Allen Americans this year. -BG]

As most professional hockey teams around North America are just beginning to blow the dust off of their collective equipment, the Texas Tornado of the NAHL have already completed their training camp and pre-season slate of two games (recaps after the jump).

For those of you less familiar with the Tornado and the NAHL let me provide you a quick description of who we are and what our mission is as a member of the NAHL.

What is the NAHL? Well, here is a full-blown explanation, but in a nut-shell, they are North America's largest Junior-A, USA Hockey sanctioned league. The league provides a platform for the best amateur players, 21 and under, to be exposed to professional and collegiate scouts through a 58-game regular-season schedule, showcase tournaments, and the Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament (more on this later). The most famous NAHL Alumni include Tim Thomas, Patrick Kane, and Ryan Miller.

While a few of the team members are from the Metroplex area, a majority of them are not. While the roster has not been completely finalized as of this writing, it is possible that the Tornado will sport players this season from Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, Canada, England, and Russia, among several other places across North America.

More about the Tornado and this upcoming season after the jump...

"Since their inception in 1999, the Texas Tornado have set the standard for excellence for junior hockey in the United States. In addition to their three straight National Championships from 2004-2006, the Tornado have won seven NAHL regular season division titles. They also had seven straight 40+ win seasons from 1999-2006, an NAHL record. In 2007, the team won its seventh straight division title, a feat which tied a 30-year-old NAHL record. In nine years, the Tornado have developed and moved over 80 players onto NCAA and professional teams." (TornadoHockey.com)

The Tornado have also had 11 alumni make it to the NHL level including Al Montoya, Ben Bishop, Andy Wozniewski, Stephane da Costa, and Jake Newton. The Ludwig brothers also played for the Tornado.

But enough already about who we are and what we've done. What is going on right now? Glad you asked. Many, many things have changed with the Tornado in the past 2-3 seasons. Let's do a run-down, bullet-style.

  • New Ownership. BUZZWORD! Yes, like the Stars, ownership became an issue for the team. The past owners, the Schlegel family, seemed to have lost interest in the team after the massive string of success from 2003-2008. They sold the team to Consolidated Sports Holdings USA, which has its US office in Scottsdale, AZ. The main corporate office of CSH is in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Always good to have Canadians owning a hockey team, eh?
  • Arena Renovations. Wait, wasn't the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco built in 2003? Yes, it was, but that didn't stop them from closing the arena for the 2008-2009 season to completely renovate the suite level. Remember the ownership issue I mentioned? Well, the past owners chose not to inform our fans of the remodel or worse yet, let the community know that we returned the following season for our 10th Anniversary. Goes without saying the team was struggling, while not as much on the ice, as the team never missed the playoffs, attendance sagged significantly. Nobody knew we were still around!
  • New Plan-of-Attack. This will be the Tornado's second full season under the new ownership (they took over in August of 2010), but the first where we had a full off-season to scout, recruit, market, sell, and prepare as a team should. Needless to say, the needle now points squarely north.

It has been a busy, busy summer for the Tornado from the front office staff all the way to the coaches, to say the least. But now, after all that, hockey is upon us.

Training camp concluded on Sunday, August 28th with the Black & Gold Scrimmage held at The Ice at Stonebriar Centre. Almost 250 fans turned out for the event, which was viewed as a success by the team. (Recap here)

The Tornado have already completed their pre-season schedule, with two games last week against Wichita Falls and Corpus Christi.

Tornado, Behind Prince's Hat Trick, Overpower the Wildcats

The first pre-season game went about as well as could be hoped for. The Tornado started slowly, capitalized early on a PP, then got into penalty trouble and took a 1-1 tie into the 3rd period. From there, it was all Texas. With the game still tied midway through the 3rd, the Tornado exploded for 4 goals, including the final two to complete Jack Prince's hat trick. With the score decided, things turned physical as two fights broke out in the 3rd period before the Tornado emerged with a 5-1 victory.

Texas Completes Pre-Season Schedule with 6-0 Romp

Texas returned to the Metroplex area to conclude their pre-season schedule with a game in McKinney against the Corpus Christi Ice Rays. The Tornado used a consistent and dominant performance to secure a 6-0 victory. The game lines up pretty well with the score, as the Tornado led 2-0 after 1, 4-0 after 2, and finished with a 6-0 victory that got a little scrappy at the end with 2 fights in the last 5 minutes.

All in all, it was a good tune-up for the Tornado who now embark on a 4-game road swing in Blaine, Minnesota to begin the season at the Combat Hockey/NAHL Showcase.

With the pre-season in the books, its time to shift focus to the regular season which begins tomorrow in Blaine, Minnesota with the Combat Hockey/NAHL Showcase. The Tornado will face-off in 4 games against the Traverse City North Stars, Alexandria Blizzard, Springfield Jr. Blues, and the Aberdeen Wings. Over 10,000 spectators and over 200 scouts are expected to be in attendance throughout the showcase.

It is very hard to predict what teams will look like going into the season as NAHL teams are allowed to carry 25 players to the showcase which must be trimmed to 22 by October 1st. Each year about half of the Tornado roster turns-over due to players getting scholarships, moving up to the USHL or being drafted, or simply running out of eligibility. Therefore, the Tornado have only 5-6 returning players from last year's squad. In the NAHL, every year for every team is a rebuilding year, and that's just the way the league wants it. However this difficulty is presented, the Texas Tornado can boast that in 11 years of league play, we have made the playoffs...11 times.

This is now getting rather long, so I'll conclude with the two main story lines to follow this season.

  • The 2012 Robertson Cup National Championship. This year, for the second time in our history (2004), the Tornado will be hosting the Chuck Robertson Cup National Championship. The Tornado are looking to become the first team in NAHL history to host and win 2 Robertson Cup Championships. As host, the Tornado are guaranteed a bid to play in the tournament regardless of regular-season and playoff result. Can the Tornado come together and win their 5th Robertson Cup in 12 seasons? No reason to think it cannot be accomplished because of storyline #2...which brings me to...
  • Tony Curtale - Head Coach/GM. Coach Curtale has been with the Tornado since its inception and has amassed over 700 wins in between his time with the Springfield Jr. Blues and the Texas Tornado. He has 521 regular season victories which is only 8 wins shy of the all-time record for USA Junior Hockey coaches. For this goal, it is a matter only of if, not when, this feat is accomplished. Coach Curtale is the foundation of the Texas Tornado program and the main-cog in the brilliant success sustained throughout the brief history of the franchise.

For all things NAHL and Texas Tornado related see us at TornadoHockey.com and NAHL.com, as well as weekly here on Defending Big D!

I can also be reached directly at nick@tornadohockey.com

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