Mike Oliverio has been named head scout of the Flint Firebirds.
The 54-year old Sault Ste. Marie resident has served as a long-time regional scout for the Ontario Hockey League franchise dating back to when the Firebirds were known as the Plymouth Whalers.
In fact, Oliverio scouted for Plymouth from 1997 to 2010 before he left the Whalers to become an assistant coach/development coach for the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds. Oliverio spent four seasons on the Greyhound coaching staff before taking a scouting position with the Firebirds in 2015, which was the year the franchise relocated to Flint from Plymouth.
As a player in the OHL, Oliverio was a star performer over five full seasons with his hometown Greyhounds as a small, fast skating center who became one of the top point producers in franchise history.
Regular season and playoffs included, Oliverio suited up in 355 games for the Greyhounds between 1983 and 1988 and produced 166 goals, 262 assists, 428 points while becoming a National Hockey League draft pick of the erstwhile Quebec Nordiques.
After graduating from the Greyhounds and the OHL in 1988, Oliverio played two pro seasons in the British Elite Hockey League and posted eye-popping totals of 74 goals, 149 assists, 223 points in just 56 games.
He then returned home and became a first responder as a member of the Sault Ste. Marie fire department.
Oliverio’s hockey promotion in Flint comes with good words from the Firebirds top hockey guy.
“We are very excited to have elevated Mike Oliverio to head scout,” relayed Firebirds president of hockey operations and general manager Terry Christensen. “He brings decades of OHL experience to the position as a player, coach and scout. He understands what it’s going to take to bring a championship level pedigree to the Firebirds.”
Oliverio is thankful for the opportunity to move up as the head scout for the Firebirds.
“Thanks go out to Rolf (Nilsen) and Terry (Christensen) for this new opportunity,” Oliverio said. “I have been with the Whaler/Firebird organization for a long time, both have been first-class organizations and I am excited for the new challenge as we move along.”
“This last year (with the cancellation of the 2020-2021 OHL season relative to COVID-19) was a tough situation and we pulled together,” Oliverio said. “I give credit to the staff. It’s not just one voice here, we are team oriented and we have had success as a whole staff that I want to keep building on.”
IN LIKE FLINT
It has been a busy few months of change for the Firebirds.
A trio of incoming coaches has been hired by Flint since owner Rolf Nilsen brought in 66-year old Terry Christensen on May 7 to be the president of hockey operations for the OHL team.
The changes have followed a successful 2019-2020 OHL season in which the Firebirds posted 82 points from a record of 40-21-2 — which was the best in Flint’s franchise history and was well orchestrated by former general manager Barclay Branch and erstwhile head coach Eric Wellwood.
Branch and Wellwood both left the employ of the Firebirds not long after Nilsen hired Christensen to oversee the Flint hockey department.
• Ted Dent is the new head coach of the Firebirds. The 51-year old Dent brings plenty of experience in the game to Flint.
He spent 11 seasons with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. He started as the IceHogs assistant coach in 2006 before being promoted to head coach in 2011, a position he held for the next six years.
After leaving Rockford, Dent became the associate coach of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs for the 2017-2018 season before becoming a pro scout for the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes.
• 34-year old Kris Sparre is the Firebirds new associate coach.
Sparre spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach for EC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria’s top professional hockey league. Before that, he was an assistant coach for the OHL Niagara IceDogs from 2016-2018, where he was on staff with Ted Dent.
As a winger, Sparre played in 150 OHL games between the Barrie Colts and Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors from 2005-2008. He later played 257 games in the DEL, which is Germany’s top pro league.
• 38-year old Jared Nightingale is the Firebirds new assistant coach. He was previously on the coaching staff of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit.
As a defenseman, he played for the Soo Indians of the junior level North American Hockey League for three seasons (from 1999 to 2002) before skating at the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association level with the Michigan State Spartans for four years. Nightingale then spent 13 seasons in the minor pro ranks before turning to coaching.
Before going to Saginaw and the OHL, Nightingale was an assistant coach for the United States National Team Development Program. His first year coaching was in 2017-2018 when he was an assistant for the Omaha Lancers of the junior level United States Hockey League.
Any concerns that the new look Firebirds would have difficulty signing their first round pick from the 2021 OHL priority selections draft have been addressed.
That is, Flint recently confirmed that big defenseman Tristan Bertucci has committed to an OHL standard player agreement with the Firebirds.
“We are very excited and happy that Tristan Bertucci has committed to our hockey club,” relayed Firebirds president of hockey operations and general manager Terry Christensen. “Tristan has great potential to become an elite defenseman in the OHL and we can’t wait to get him (to Flint) for training camp.”
Bertucci, who was taken with the seventh overall pick at the recent OHL priority selections process, has spent his last two seasons with the Toronto Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League.
Bertucci called his commitment to Flint and the OHL “a great feeling. They just hired a great coaching staff with tremendous experience and I’m thrilled to be joining the Firebird organization.”