Monday, November 04, 2013


Blades off to Great Start!

Blades off to a Great Start!


The Florida Everblades lost a heartbreaking game against the Orlando Solar Bears in a ECHL shootout last Friday night; however, they defeated the Bears the following night to maintain their lead in the South Division. A good thing, as well, because the South Carolina Stingrays have had an identical start: 8 games, 7 wins, and one shootout loss.

Due to the nature of the game itself, the start is quite remarkable. There are about a dozen returning players on the team. The nature of the league is transitional; players move up to the NHL, or, most often, to the AHL. There is even a lot of movement between the teams, as most teams are affiliated with two AHL teams and two NHL teams. The Blades are tied in with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL, and the Charlotte Checkers and the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. Just before the game last Friday, forward Danick Gauthier was called up to Syracuse, joining goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis.

Forward Matthew Pistilli began his pro career with the Blades in the 2009-2010 season. He has spent time with the Charlotte Checkers and the Albany River Rats in the AHL. He is off to an excellent start this year, leading the team in scoring, and has been named the CCM ECHL Player of the Week. Not far behind Pistilli is a first-year player with the Blades, Kyle Bonis. That name may sound familiar to Dukes fans, as Bonis played some of his minor hockey for the Bancroft Hawks. He moved on to the Port Hope Predators in the 2006-2007 season and spent the next two seasons with the Traverse City North Stars of the North American Hockey League.

In 2009, Bonis entered Ferris State University, graduating in 2013 with a degree in Business. “It was an awesome place,” he told me after last Friday night’s game. “I went there to work out before beginning the season here in Fort Myers. I still talk to a lot of the guys from the school, friends forever.”

Bonis hails from Lindsay, Ontario, and knows a thing or two about hard work. His family has a two thousand acre farm, with soy beans, corn, wheat, and a herd of a hundred beef cattle. He returns to the farm every summer to help out with the chores. Hockey players raised on farms have a toughness that is hard to beat.

Bonis chuckled as we discussed his time at the old “Duke Dome”. “I hated that place. It was a terrifying place for us to play in the playoffs, especially with that “Whiskey Corner” right beside our bench.” He appreciated hearing about the new arena.

Bonis noted that the Blades’ start was especially fine due to the fact that six of their wins were on the road. They spent several days in the west, at Ontario  and Bakersfield, in California, and Las Vegas. He noted the great support the team receives at home, and loves the Fort Myers area. “But I’m not a beach guy,” he added.

He enjoyed his time in Bancroft, playing for one of his favourite coaches, John Johnson. He remembers his amazement one day at North Hastings Secondary School, when he arrived to half-empty classroom. The reason? “The first day of deer hunting season,” he told me. His father coached him until he was about twelve years old. He also credits his coach at Traverse City, Anthony Palumbo, for his success.

The Bonis family follows his game via the internet. “They have a huge television, and they watch the games at home. After the game, I hear from them. They are my best fans, but also my keenest critics.”

He also keeps in touch with Adam Wood, now with the Dukes.

The Blades face the Elmira Jackals and the Toledo Walleye this week, at home. Try to get to the Wednesday game: Hot dogs, Bud light drafts, and wine are two bucks each! There should be curb service to Whiskey Corner!


November 4, 2013

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