• Jamie Cummings

NAHL Throwback: Remembering The Albert Lea Thunder

In 2008 the NAHL awarded the quaint Southern Minnesota city of Albert Lea a franchise in the Central Division. The Thunder played their home games in the Albert Lea City arena.

Thunder owners Barry Soskin and Jim Perkins announced the hiring of their coaches; head coach Paul Willett and assistant coach Brian Murphy at a press conference held at the City Arena but almost instantly the drama began.

In July of 2008 Willett would resign his position simply citing "philosophical differences" with Soskin and Perkins.

On July 31st owner Barry Soskin announced that the Thunder had hired the well traveled and experienced Brad Zangs. Paul Murphy would remain the assistant coach. By August the Thunder had filled out its roster and was ready to play.

The Thunder's first challenge would be the NAHL showcase. The team had a poor showing and not only came out of the season opening showcase winless but players began quitting the team. Even assistant coach Brian Murphy would run for the hills midway through the season.

The Thunder would go on to have an awful inaugural season finishing with only four wins.

Early in the second season head coach Brad Zangs was let go and the Thunder would hire their third coach Chuck Linkenheld.

In 2009 the NAHL investigated and discovered that Thunder owners had participated in "pay to play" practices the league handed down a harsh punishment. The team was allowed to finish the 2009-2010 season. The Thunder made a strong second push despite all the adversity they had faced and made the playoffs. They would be bounced in the first round.

Following the season the team was sold off to new owners and moved to Amarillo Texas where they would become the Amarillo Bulls thus ending a brief and disgraceful history of Junior Hockey in the city of Albert Lea.

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