A trio of incoming coaches has been hired by the Flint Firebirds since owner Rolf Nilsen brought in 66-year old Terry Christensen on May 7 to be the president of hockey operations for the Ontario Hockey League team.
The changes have come over the past several weeks and follow 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.
• 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.
IN LIKE FLINT
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 has 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 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.”