ThunderHawks Hindley no stranger to expansion

If his team shows a fraction of the determination of its head coach, the Toronto ThunderHawks should be something to behold this fall.

Exactly seven months after suffering a stroke, Gary Hindley was introduced Thursday as head coach of the expansion ThunderHawks of the indoor National Professional Soccer League.

He looks lean and spry.

One would never know the New Jersey native spent four months rehabilitating in a Mississippi hospital after the Jan. 10 stroke.

"Doctors gave me full clearance (to come back to coaching) but they told me they'd never had a stroke patient come back as far as I have in that short of period of time," he said with pride Thursday.

"I was running on the beach within three months."

When he returned to hospital, it was to counsel other stroke patients that they too could recover.

Hindley, 53, attributes his speedy return to physical fitness.

He uses the gym regularly and last fall he refereed 52 U.S. college games in 75 days, with each one the equivalent to almost 13 kilometres running.

Hindley comes to Toronto with a championship ring and a reputation as a classy coach with great organizational skills.

The clunky ring, courtesy of winning the NPSL title in 1993-94 with the Cleveland Crunch, is engraved with the words "First championship in 30 years in Cleveland."

The title before that belonged to the NFL Browns.

Hindley's enthusiasm about the indoor game is equally plain to see.

"I really enjoy coaching the indoor game. It's more like coaching basketball and hockey because of line changes. You can really affect the game more in the indoor game than you can in outdoor.

"Once a game starts outdoors, it's what you've done the whole week in preparation that takes over. But in indoor, you can outcoach somebody game day."

Having already suffered through two expansion teams -- the Cincinnati Silverbacks in the NPSL and the Mississippi Beach Kings of the Eastern Indoor Soccer League -- Hindley admitted he was leery about taking on another.

But the ThunderHawks aren't a normal expansion franchise.

They have owners with deep pockets and a ready-made player pool thanks to the purchase of the existing indoor franchise in Montreal.

Still there are challenges.

"Now we've got 27 players and by next week we've got to be down to 16 and most of them I haven't even seen," he said.

Hindley expects to have nine or 10 of the former Impact players in Toronto's lineup.

Those that stick can expect to make $3,000 to $4,000 a month on average.

The ThunderHawks will play out of the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., although there are plans for one game in Hamilton's Copps Coliseum and two at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Hindley's soccer ties extend across North America.

He coached Montreal's Mauro Biello in Buffalo and Carlos Olivas, an expansion draft pick from the Kansas City Attack, played for him in Mississippi.

Hindley also has local ties through assistant coach Peter Pinizzotto, who doubles as head coach and general manager of the A-League Toronto Lynx.

A former goalkeeper, Hindley spent three years as head coach of the Crunch before coaching NPSL teams in Cincinnati and Buffalo.

He played professionally in the American Soccer League before turning to coaching in U.S. college ranks with Middlebury College in Vermont and his alma mater Trenton State in New Jersey.

His NPSL coaching record is 114-96, seventh best in league history.

He also has an extensive coaching resume outdoors.

"He's a class act," said Keith Tozer, head coach of the NPSL champion Milwaukee Wave. "In all the leagues that he's coached in . . . he's always shown class towards his organization.

"He's an extremely hard-worker and he's extremely organized."

By Neil Davidson