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Brooklyn Aces hit the ice

For the last eight seasons Brooklyn has belonged to pro baseball.

This year it’s pro hockey’s turn.

The Brooklyn Aces single “A” minor league hockey team hits the ice at the Aviator Sports complex on November 1, and coach Chris Firriolo is already scouring the North American continent for the right mix of players to make Brooklyn a winner.

“People want to see the guys win and we want to be successful right out of the gate,” Firriolo told this newspaper.

The team has been averaging 20 emails a day from talented players – most with NCAA or junior hockey experience – looking for a shot at wearing a Brooklyn Aces jersey this year.

Making the team won’t be easy, and only 60 players will be invited to the Brooklyn Aces tryout camp at Aviator September 5 to 7.

“At this level it’s really a stepping stone for a lot of guys,” Firriolo says.

The Brooklyn Aces are part of the new Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL). Jim Riggs is the commissioner who got hooked on the Aviator Sports complex soon after talking with fellow hockey aficionado and New York Rangers radio announcer Kenny Albert.

“Aviator is uniquely different from the typical ice facility,” he says. “This one brought so much more to the table.”

With so much more going on at Aviator, Riggs and his partners are confident that the Aces will score with existing hockey fans while also cultivating new devotees to the sport.

Who knows, a local kid might even make the team.

“We’re hoping for that,” Firriolo says. “If there’s a local guy that can make our squad I would be a very happy. From a marketing standpoint it makes it more exciting for everybody. I’m hoping that does happen.”

As head coach and director of Hockey Operations for the Brooklyn Aces, Firriolo says that the players will ultimately dictate the kind of team that starts skating this fall, but he’s traditionally helmed teams favoring a “very fast and aggressive style of play.”

At 41, Firriolo already has a wealth of coaching experience, having most recently led the Syracuse Stars of the Eastern Junior Hockey League to their most successful season in 20 years.

“It really depends on if you can get the right players to play that system,” he says. “We’re going to let guys showcase their skills.”

The Brooklyn Aces will play a 50-game schedule. Other teams in the new EPHL include the Danbury Mad Hatters, Jersey Rock Hoppers, Copper City Chiefs and the New Hampshire Freeze.

The Brooklyn squad will be housed locally, keeping players close to Aviator’s Flatbush Avenue facilities, and the Aces say they want their developing stars to be “out in the community.”

“Brooklyn is a tremendous sports town and we want to build relationships,” Firriolo says.

Look for the Brooklyn Aces to also “take a page” right out of the Brooklyn Cyclones playbook, sponsoring special promotional events at the rink and hosting hockey workshops for kids in the coming months.

“In this day and age you can’t just promote minor league hockey,” Riggs says. “The average fan is looking for that added value that minor league baseball has done so well.”

So while the crack of the bat is now the clarion call to come out to the ballpark, come November it’ll be the slapping of sticks that summon fans to the rink for the fastest game on the planet – Brooklyn style.

For more information about tickets, log onto www.brooklynaces.com.

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