If you are a fan of the Orlando Solar Bears, here is your chance to learn more about who manages and operates our Solar Bears. The prominent individuals you should know if you are new to the Solar Bears, or even a casual fan looking to learn more are President Chris Heller, Head Coach and General Manager Matt Carkner, and Assistant Coach Ben Holmstrom.
Since graduating from West Virginia University College of Law in 2004, Chris Heller has been with the team since 2011, where he started as the Director of Finance and Legal. In 2016, he was named the President of the Orlando Solar Bears.
The 2022-23 season was Carkner’s first with the Orlando Solar Bears. Carkner has had an active hockey career since he was drafted in 1999 by the Canadiens and played on multiple NHL teams and with the AHL Bridgeport Islanders. Before getting drafted, Matt Carkner played in the Ontario Hockey League, where he finished his OHL career with 13 goals and 56 points in 232 games. If penalty minutes impress you, how do 600 penalty minutes within those 232 games sound? Unfortunately, in the summer of 2016, Carkner realized his injuries had caught up to him, so he announced his official retirement from hockey. He soon after began his coaching career with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, now known as the Bridgeport Islanders, as their assistant coach.
Fast forward to June 2022, when the Orlando Solar Bears announce their new head coach and general manager, Matt Carkner. “I’d like to thank the whole organization for putting their trust in me to lead this team for the upcoming season,” Carkner said. Under Carkner, the team ended their season 30-33-8-1. I’m excited to see what he does with the team this upcoming season!
Until this previous 2022-23 season Assistant Coach Ben Holmstrom was still skating in the AHL and ECHL. His name was on ECHL rosters, such as the South Carolina Stingrays, Cincinnati Cyclones, and the Norfolk Admirals. Holmstrom played in seven NHL games with the Flyers and 611 AHL games. During the 2009-10 hockey season, Holmstrom was awarded the HE (Hockey East) Best Defensive Forward at U-Mass-Lowell, where he recorded 84 points in 144 games and served as captain for three seasons. Like Matt Carkner, Ben’s first season with the Orlando Solar Bears was also the 2022-23 season.
Orlando’s management and hockey operations teams have excellent skill sets. Even though Carkner did not yet lead us to see the Kelly Cup playoffs, I hope the 2023-24 season is our year! I’m looking forward to Matt Carkner and Ben Holmstrom’s second year with the team.