Three Stars Of The ECHL: Orlando Solar Bears

The Orlando Solar Bears were reborn in November of 2011 after the original incarnation of the Solar Bears went into hibernation immediately after winning the 2000-2001 Turner Cup. The IHL would go on to be absorbed by the AHL and Orlando owner Rich DeVos chose to bring the Grand Rapids Griffins to the AHL rather than Orlando or his Kansas City Blades as the AHL only allowed one team per owner.

The ECHL version of the Solar Bears is yet to see the championship success that the IHL Solar Bears have seen. For that reason, you may just see a member of the IHL Solar Bears on this list of the Three Stars in Orlando Solar Bears history. But to start, we’re going to open with the ECHL team’s all-time leading scorer.

Orlando Solar Bears/ECHL

Eric Faille:

The Orlando Solar Bears all-time leading scorer since their rebirth is forward Eric Faille. Faille’s Solar Bears debut took place during the 2015-16 season. Faille would end up getting the call up to the AHL with the Toronto Marlies for 15 games. Similarly, in Faille’s second and final season with Orlando, he would see 11 games with the Marlies in Toronto.

Throughout the two seasons Faille played with Orlando, he would appear in 113 games and scored a scintillating 130 points. (51G-79A). Despite the success of Faille, the Solar Bears hockey club would finish no higher than third in those two seasons. In their only playoff appearance, Orlando would be eliminated by the Florida Everblades in a seven-game series.

Prior to his time with Orlando, Faille played 45 games with the Fort Wayne Komets and the AHL’s Texas Stars. His scoring touch was prevalent with the Komets, where Faille posted 54 points in those 45 games. (27G-27A) However, with Texas, in 21 games Faille recorded six points on two goals and four assists.

After his time between the two leagues, Faille would head overseas where he has played for the past three seasons. He has spent time with the Banska Bystrica HC 05 of the Slovak league and Kloten-HC of the Swiss league. In a combined 148 games between the two, Faille has scored 63 goals along with 123 assists for 186 points.

The scoring touch that has alluded him in the AHL is back and Faille is lighting it up overseas. The closest current Solar Bear in terms of catching Faille in total points is Chris LeBlanc with 95 points in 173 games. It stands to reason that LeBlanc can pass Faille with a solid 2020-21 campaign. But, as of now, Faille remains one of the Three Stars of Orlando Solar Bears history as the overall top scorer in franchise history.

Switching gears, after looking at Orlando’s most prolific scorer, we’re going to now look at the greatest goaltender in Orlando history.

Norm Maracle:

In a way, it was a bit of a miracle that Orlando ended up with Norm Maracle. Under contract with the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, when Maracle showed up to camp for the 2000-2001 season, his conditioning was so poor that Atlanta sent him to their minor league affiliate, the Orlando Solar Bears in the IHL.

With the team in 2000-2001, Maracle posted an incredible 33-13-3 record with a .925 save percentage and 2.02 GAA. Maracle would see some time with the Thrashers that season, where he posted a less than stellar 2-8-3 record with a 3.43 GAA and .894 save percentage. He amassed these across 13 games. With Orlando, Maracle had a team record eight shutouts when he led the Solar Bears to the Turner Cup Championship during the final season of the IHL.

The following season, the Thrashers top minor league affiliate would become the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. This was at the same time that the Solar Bears, at that point, went into hibernation. During the 2001-2002 season, Maracle only played in his final game in the NHL with Atlanta.

It was a 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 10th, 2001. With the Wolves, however, Maracle posted a 21-25-4 record with a .906 save percentage and a 2.90 GAA. Despite having to sneak into the postseason as a seven-seed, Maracle would backstop the Wolves to the Calder Cup in their first AHL season.

After one more season with Chicago where Maracle would go 22-18-6 with a .906 save percentage and 2.88 GAA, Maracle, too, would head overseas. Maracle would play nine more seasons in various leagues with six different teams. He posted a career best 2.00 GAA with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2003-2004. Maracle would retire after his 2011-12 season with Starbulls Rosenheim, where he still managed a strong 23-21 record and a 2.56 GAA.

After looking at two of the greatest players in Orlando’s past, I feel it would be remiss to neglect the present.

Orlando Solar Bears/ECHL

Chris LeBlanc:

The current Orlando Solar Bears captain, Chris LeBlanc, makes the list for a multitude of reasons. He is the seventh captain in Orlando history, is second overall in games played, and with a healthy, full season in 2020-21, he would be first overall. He is currently tied for fifth in points all time (95 points) and only 35 behind the leader, Eric Faille.

He also sits fifth in all-time assists and is tied for sixth all-time in goals. If the 2020-21 season is a full season, it is very possible, if not very likely, that Chris LeBlanc will top the lists mentioned above.

As he enters his fourth season with Orlando and his first full year as captain, LeBlanc, 27-years-old, will continue his climb up the Orlando record books. In 173 career games with the Solar Bears, LeBlanc’s 95 points, which consists of 34 goals and 61 assists, has him poised to be a vital part of the 2020-21 Solar Bears. LeBlanc will be surrounded by mostly familiar faces as the team goes looking to win their first ever Kelly Cup.

Orlando Solar Bears/ECHL

Following his four-year tenure at Merrimack College with the Warriors hockey program, LeBlanc played six games in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators in 2016-17. There, he didn’t get on the scoreboard. Following those six games, LeBlanc joined the ECHL, playing seven games with the Wichita Thunder. There, he recorded five assists, this making for a total of five points registered.

Prior to the 2017-18 season, LeBlanc would sign on with the Orlando Solar Bears. In his first season, LeBlanc put up 10 goals along with 11 assists which made for 21 points. He did so in 60 games played. The winger would improve to add 10 goals along with 29 assists in 2018-19. That saw him tally 39 points. In the pandemic shortened 2019-20 season, he added 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points.

As the Solar Bears look to reclaim their championship heritage from their former IHL iteration, the Solar Bears of the present will look to their captain to guide them to their first ever South Division championship. Hopefully you have enjoyed this look into Orlando’s three stars as we get closer to Opening Night.

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