Bloomington Thunder to rebrand for 2017-18 USHL season

New identity symbolizes development of future NHL players, aims to expand footprint throughout region

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Bloomington Thunder announced on Thursday that it will rebrand as the Central Illinois Flying Aces for the 2017-18 season, which will mark the team’s fourth season as a member of both the United States Hockey League and the CSH International ownership group.

“We’re really excited for the next chapter of our history,” Chief Operating Officer Brendan Kelly said. “This organization has had numerous accomplishments in its three seasons, from the five NHL Draft picks to moving nearly 40 players onto NCAA Division I programs. The rebrand not only reflects that success, but unites our area as one large hockey community.

“Our new identity underlines our continued commitment to elevating our game both on and off the ice and building long-term success in Central Illinois,” Kelly added.

When the USHL came to Bloomington for the 2014-15 season, the nation’s only Tier I junior hockey league brought an entirely different level of hockey to the area and players on the upward trajectory in their hockey careers. In the 2016-17 season alone, there were more than 700 USHL alumni playing NCAA Division I hockey and more than 100 USHL alumni playing in the NHL, including Patrick Sharp, Joe Pavelski, Jack Eichel, and 2017 Calder Memorial Trophy winner Auston Matthews.

According to Kelly, the Flying Aces nickname emerged because of how it embodies the skill and speed of play in the USHL and its elite players.

The rebrand coincides with a series of changes for the upcoming season. In May, former NHL player Mike Watt was named the second head coach in team history, which was followed by the addition of assistant coaches Andy Contois and Chase Fuchs. The team’s front office has also undergone a series of changes, headlined by the hiring of Kelly, who has more than 15 years of experience in the sports industry.

“With the changes that have taken place and a complete overhaul to the fan experience currently in the works, it was a natural progression to link the new vision for the team to a new identity,” Kelly said. “This new identity helps define who we are and what we are. It distinguishes this organization and league as the best hockey product that this arena and region has ever been home to.”

The new visual identity of the team, including the color scheme, logos and jerseys, along with a new official website will be unveiled at a news conference in the coming week.

Leading up the 2017-18 campaign, the Flying Aces will announce a new, value-based ticket pricing structure and an enhanced promotional schedule featuring numerous giveaways, theme nights and more. In addition, there will also be special news for fans who purchased a jersey during the 2016-17 season.

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