Professional hockey in Harrington

Delaware’s first professional ice hockey team will make its home in Harrington, at the state fairgrounds Centre Ice Arena, starting this fall.

“I knew the Delaware State Fair was the place for it,” said Delaware Thunder president and general manager Charlie Pens Sr. “The people have been phenomenal, the business community, corporate partnerships, fans. I can’t tell you how welcoming and how overwhelming the response has been.”

The Delaware Thunder is in the ten-team Federal Prospects Hockey League, one of a handful of North American minor leagues. The team is not under the umbrella of a major team, like some are, but players are paid.

“I’d equate it to the Blue Rocks or the Shorebirds,” said Pens.

He hopes to roster about 22 players. In July, at a free agent camp in Philadelphia, the Thunder picked up players from Canada, China and New Zealand.

“We scout players throughout the summer, then we have our free agent camp. If we see any other players we like between now and October, we invite them to our main camp the week of October 14,” Pens said.

Players are given “try-out offers,” but no one is signed to a contract until after the main camp.

“Everybody has to fight for a position,” Pens said. “We probably hear from over 300 players. It’s pretty intense.”

During the season, which runs from October to April, players report at 9 a.m. daily. They have meals together, practice on the ice, spend time in the gym and participate in mandatory yoga. Players are required to do community service.

“Any youth hockey program in the region that would like our players to come out, we would love to do some community service with them,” Pens said.

The Delaware Thunder’s first game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Friday, October 25, against the Columbus River Dragons. The following weekend, they’ll play the Carolina Thunderbirds.

“We’re playing the top two teams in the league the first two weekends,” Pens said. “It’s going to be very fast, extremely physical and very exciting.”

The Centre Ice Arena seats 700 spectators. The Delaware Thunder offers season tickets, corporate suites and discounts for groups, military and seniors. For more, visit delawarethunder.com.