In 2017 the Dunedin Thunder were the dark horse of the NZIHL. During those final weeks of the season they still remained an outside chance of making it to the Birgel Cup Finals, if the Admirals went through a second-half slump. Of course that’s not how the rounds panned out and Dunedin ended in third place, nine points shy of the Finals.
In the last of our ‘Import Report’ series, we look at the 2018 #GreenMachine.
Travis Gibbons, Head Coach
In previous instalments of this series I have strictly focused on the players, and to be fair I could have done a whole bit on the Swarm’s new ‘import’ assistant coach Travis Crickard, I’ll save that for another day. But there’s another Travis coming in from Canada this season to be behind the bench, new Thunder head coach Travis Gibbons.
Gibbons is currently working towards the completion of his PhD at Otago University’s sport department. Prior to that the defenseman turned coach enjoyed a good career playing major junior hockey in the OHL for the Guelph Storm and Ottawa 67’s, before going on to attend Acadia University and playing for the Axemen.
Gibbons kept good company while playing in the OHL where he shared a fair few bus rides with some of the best in the NHL today including: Tyler Toffoli, Sean Monahan, Cody Ceci, Petr Mrazek, Peter Holland and two-time Stanley Cup/Olympic Champion Drew Doughty.
It feels like a good move by the Thunder to bring in a guy like Gibbons. Perhaps some of what he has learnt during his time playing in Canada can rub off on his new team. A quick Google search would suggest that he was a popular figure in the 67’s locker room and will bring a strong energy to Dunedin.
Bombardier takes on two roles with the Thunder this season. Along with defending Dunedin’s blue line he’s also working as the team’s High Performance Director. ‘Why?’ You may ask.
Well, here’s your answer: During the 2017 National Football League season, you know the highest-grossing professional league in the world with $14B in revenue, Bombardier interned in the Strength & Conditioning department of the Oakland Raiders before moving to Dunedin.
On the ice, the 5-foot-11 defender from Quebec played his junior hockey with the OCN Blizzard before heading to the University of Wisconsin-Stout to study and play NCAA division 3 hockey. In 2015-16 Bombardier went on to the University of Utah where he shone in the ACHA’s second division, producing 15 goals and 11 assists in 22 games.
Bringing that intense work ethic to the gym could see huge gains for the Thunder as Bombardier applies what he’s learnt from the Raiders.
From looking at the Red Devils and what Chris Eaden brought to the team with his workouts, it’s clear how beneficial a strict off-ice regime can be to on-ice performance. I’m starting to think this Dunedin side isn’t one to mess with this season.
After a few years of playing junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League the 23-year-old defenseman from Victoria, BC is now enjoying a different lifestyle in Dunedin working as an electrician away from the rink.
In the BCHL Egli primarily played for the Victoria Grizzlies where he scored 42 points on 76 games. He also suited up in 54 games for the team with arguably one of the greatest names ever in hockey, the Trail Smoke Eaters, plus most recently 46 games with the Vernon Vipers.
Thunder GM Alexis Robin likens Egli’s play to the likes of Admirals captain Justin Daigle. That’s quite a name to live up to considering the impact Daigle’s contributions have had on and off the ice in Auckland’s hockey community, here’s hoping that means Egli will be sticking around for the foreseeable future.
Amongst all these Canadians is French forward Ben Gavoille who returns for a fourth season with the Thunder and will once again wear the ‘A’ as the team’s alternate captain to Paris Heyd. The other alternates will be Dylan Devlin and Egli.
Since originally coming to the NZIHL in 2013, Gavoille has enjoyed a 1.27 points per game average from producing 20 goals and 27 assists in 37 regular-season games for the Green Machine.
Charles Plaisir also joins the Thunder on the import list this year. The 24-year-old winger from Laval, Quebec played two seasons of USports with the Concordia University Stingers before coming to Dunedin with the intention of studying, but according to Thunder management Plaisir has received a grant to study in Melbourne from September for a few months as a scientist. The 2018 NZIHL season could be fleeting visit but there’s always the possibility of him returning to continue on those studies at Otago U.
Quite possibly ripped (see: strength and conditioning) and ready to go, the Thunder open their 2018 NZIHL campaign this weekend against the West Auckland Admirals at Dunedin Ice Stadium.