By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
This year I will be covering the Atlanta Gladiators, ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, for blackngoldhockey.com website. Throughout the season I’ll provide news and summaries of the team’s performance as well as updates on any Bruins prospects that represent the organization in the ECHL. With hockey season almost upon us, it seems like a good time to preview the Atlanta Gladiators upcoming season.
Despite finishing fourth in the Eastern South Division last season, the Gladiators managed to make the Kelly Cup playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, though they were blown away 4-0 in the first round by the Florida Everblades. The team will be hoping to make progress next season with the return of Jeff Pyle, who left Atlanta for the AHL in 2011. Pyle will assume the role of General Manager and Head Coach, and Pyle seems hungry for success.
“This is a great market with an incredible fan base,” he said. “They deserve the best, and we as an organization, from not just the hockey side, but the business side as well, are going to work together to do everything we possibly can to produce a championship-caliber team that the community can truly be proud of.”
Pyle lead the Gladiators to their most successful season back in 2005-06, 107 regular season points and the team’s first and only appearance in the Kelly Cup finals, where they were beaten by the top-seeded Alaska Aces.
Building on the optimism generated by the return of Jeff Pyle, the Gladiators finally revealed their long anticipated new uniforms on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The new threads, modeled by Derek Nesbitt, provide a fresh look using the team’s primary colors — garnet, gold, and black — while retaining a classic feel. The home jersey will now be garnet instead of black and the away jersey will be gold, making the Gladiators the only team in the NHL, AHL and ECHL without a white jersey. “We felt it was time for an update that goes parallel with all the new and exciting things we are doing as an organization.” said designer Chris Treft. Gladiators fans will also have the chance to vote on which uniforms they want the team to use on any given night, a unique opportunity that could provide some very colorful matchups as the season unfolds. With the third jersey still yet to be revealed, the Gladiators will be hoping the new uniforms mark the beginning of a successful era in Atlanta.
The ECHL season starts slightly later than the NHL, and the team’s roster will be finalized in the coming weeks. As is normal in the ECHL, the team have invited a large number of PTOs with many places up for grabs. It would be great to see some Bruins prospects make the team after a strong showing from Dan Vladar last season, who helped the Gladiators into the playoffs. Both Vladar and Tanner Pond featured for the Boston Bruins in their preseason win over the Washington Capitals, an encouraging sign for players who are sent to Atlanta.
With a lot of action off the ice, it won’t be long before the Gladiators are back on it. The team travel to South Carolina and face off against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Oct. 4 in their only official preseason game. An inter-squad game is planned for Oct. 7 to help get the skaters up to speed ahead of the 2018-19 season opener on the road against the Orlando Solar Bears on Oct. 13. The games then come thick and fast in Week 2 as the Gladiators play three times in three days — at home to the Swamp Rabbits, the Solar Bears, and then a road game against the South Carolina Stingrays. You can find the Gladiators 2018-19 schedule on the team’s official website for full details.
With less than a month to go before the puck drops, there’s a lot to be excited about for the Atlanta Gladiators. Jeff Pyle will be working hard to make sure the team is ready to build on making the playoffs last year. With all the changes the team have made, there’s no better time to start following the Atlanta Gladiators. I look forward to keeping you all up to date as the season unfolds, stay tuned.