The Orlando Solar Bears lost a leader on and off the ice when the team announced the retirement of Captain Eric Baier last week.
Eric was a leader on Special Teams, and a calming influence for the team during tough stretches on the ice. His presence was missed when not in the lineup due to his call ups to the AHL or when he was injured. The power play lost its form when he was absent.
The North Kingstown, Rhode Island native and Providence College Alumnus is staying in Central Florida. He has accepted a position as Head Coach of the Central Florida Hockey Club, Tier II travel hockey program in Central Florida.
From the team’s press release:
"I’m ready to move on to the next chapter in my hockey career," Baier said. "Over the last four seasons I have been able to play in front of the greatest fans in the ECHL. It’s why I fell in love with this city – which I proudly call home – and it’s why I feel it’s time for me to give back to the community that has embraced me."
Baier, 29, has enjoyed a seven-year professional career that has seen him play 397 regular season games, with 346 in the ECHL and 51 in the American Hockey League.
Baier originally signed with the Solar Bears on July 29, 2013, and patrolled the blueline for Orlando over the next four seasons while serving as team captain for three campaigns. Baier played in 233 regular season games with the Solar Bears, recording 111 points (33g-78a) and 73 penalty minutes. In his time with Orlando, Baier also received call-ups to four different AHL clubs, including a two-game stint with the Rochester Americans this past season" Baier also played one game with the Toronto Marlies in the 2015-2016 season.
""Few players have left as large an imprint on the Solar Bears as Eric did," outgoing Chairman & CEO Joe Haleski said. "His impact was felt not just on the ice in some of the biggest moments in the team’s history, but throughout the Central Florida community as an ambassador of this team, which he always represented with dignity and class."
While a member of the Solar Bears, Baier was a three-time recipient of the team’s Rob Kenny Memorial Award for outstanding community service, and was named team MVP during the 2015-16 season.
Eric scored arguably the biggest goal in Orlando Solar Bears history, the first playoff overtime game winning goal in team history. It came against the Cincinnati Cyclones on April 26, 2014 in game 5 of the first-round playoff series.
Cincinnati had swept the first two games at the Amway Center, and were about to go home for the next three games. Cincinnati was so confident that the series was over, they did not book return transportation to Orlando even though games 6 and 7 were at the Amway Center.. Cincinnati won game 3 of the series, and Orlando won game 4 to stay alive.
Baier’s goal came five minutes into the extra period, and shifted the series back to Orlando for game 6.
In addition to losing a leader on and off of the ice, the team may be losing its lead guitarist. But we bet he'll continue playing guitar, too.