The Carolina Thunderbirds were an American Hockey franchise from Winston- Salem, North Carolina, which until 1992 was active among others in 1988 in the East Coast Hockey League.
The franchise took in 1981 under the name of Winston -Salem Thunderbirds of the match operation in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League newly established. Following its premiere season the team was renamed the Carolina Thunderbirds. In the following years, the Thunderbirds have been the most successful team of the ACHL and won in 1983, 1985 and 1986, Bob Payne Trophy, the ACHL Championship. In addition, the Thunderbirds 1983-1986 four times in succession were the best team in the regular season. After the ACHL 1987 the operation of gambling ceased, the team of the All - American Hockey League followed, in which they also champion was at first attempt. For the 1988/89 season the Thunderbirds left after only one year already again the AAHL and were transferred to the East Coast Hockey League. Head coach was Brian Carroll, who, however, was released after a few games. In its premiere season, the Thunderbirds reached nearly the play-offs, where they, however, after victories Riley Cup win over the Erie Panthers and Johnstown Chiefs as the first team.
From 1989 to 1992 the team played again under its founding name Winston -Salem Thunderbirds. Head Coach Chris McSorley was. In the 1989/90 season the Thunderbirds reached with 82 points clearly the play-offs and also won the Henry Brabham Cup. In the semi-finals of the play-offs the Nashville Knights was defeated in the finals at the Riley Cup defeated Winston -Salem to Greensboro Monarchs in five games. The following season ended in disappointment for the team, with 43 points missed the Thunderbirds to the finals. In the season 1991/92, the Thunderbirds were able to qualify again for the play- offs, but eliminated in the first round. before it was established in 1992 to Wheeling, West Virginia, relocated and henceforth participated under the name Wheeling Thunderbirds in the game operation of the ECHL.