Hannu Toivonen Is Still Around, Playing in Orlando

Hannu Toivonen, seen here with the St. Louis Blues, has returned to North American pro hockey. Photo by jim.cassady via Flickr.

The ECHL has been making waves recently, admitting two Central Hockey League teams from Indiana as new expansion teams (the Evansville IceMen and Fort Wayne Komets) and starting up new clubs in San Francisco and Orlando for the 2012-13 season.

The new Orlando team, the Orlando Solar Bears, is particularly interesting. Their logo is well-suited to the warm climate of the city in which they play–it features a polar bear wearing sunglasses and balancing a hockey stick over his shoulders, plus tasteful use of bright colors and a sun rising behind the bear. The team also kept the name and colors of the old Solar Bears, who were in the defunct IHL.

Now the Solar Bears have made three new interesting additions to their roster, bringing in an active-duty Air Force member, a Florida resident and none other than former Boston Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen.

Toivonen, drafted in the first round by Boston in 2002, spent two seasons in Providence before debuting with Boston in 2005-06 as their backup netminder. His first season was hampered and ended early by a high ankle sprain after he’d appeared in 20 games. In his second year, he bounced back and forth between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, playing 18 games with Boston.

He then spent time in the St. Louis system, the Chicago system, Finland and Sweden. In Sweden, his team was so badly affected by financial issues that he was forced to leave after 2011-12, though they did pay out the rest of his contract.

So perhaps it’s a good thing that he’s found somewhere else to play–with a much more temperate climate than Sweden and a bear logo to boot.

The Solar Bears’ other two additions are interesting too: defenseman Edward Levens, who lives in nearby Clermont, got onto the roster through attending tryouts and preseason games. Forward and California native Derrick Burnett also played in the two preseason games and lives nearby since he is in the Air Force, stationed at Cape Canaveral. He played for the hockey team at the Air Force Academy, too.

The Solar Bears will offer ticket discounts of up to 30 percent off during their upcoming Military Appreciation Weekend, which includes a game on Veterans Day and is a nice time to really introduce Burnett to the fans–many of whom may be active-duty or veterans themselves.

Right now, the Solar Bears are third in the South Division with 13 points in 11 games played.

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