Professional ice hockey leagues have had some growing pains in the South as it has expanded over the years. Many leagues have come and gone but one interesting league was created in the 1990s which was based in the Sunshine State from 1992-1995. Most leagues hoped they would tap into the “snowbirds” that have moved from Northern States to Florida. The Sunshine Hockey League was one of those which featured a Florida-based league.
The league began play in 1992 with five teams (West Palm Beach Blaze, Jacksonville Bullets, Daytona Beach, Lakeland Ice Warriors and St. Petersburg Renegades). The St. Petersburg team folded before the season ended so the remaining four teams all qualified for the Sunshine Cup playoffs. West Palm Beach swept Jacksonville 3-0 to win the cup.
The West Palm Beach Blaze were the dominant team during the league’s existence as they won all of the Sunshine Cup Championships. In fact, they never lost a game in the cup final as they swept Jacksonville again in both finals. The Blaze were 132-35-8 during the league’s three seasons.
In the final season of the league, they added the Fresno Falcons located in Fresno, California. Fresno played a limited schedule of 16 games and was not included in postseason play.
Kelly Dyer was one of five female hockey players to ever play professional hockey in North America. She played for the Blaze from 1993-1995. She played in 15 games and was 4-0 with a 6.75 Goals Against Average.
The league hovered around an average attendance of 1700 per game which was pretty good for a low-minor league organization. The Blaze lead the league in attendance with an average of 2000 per game.
Jacksonville’s Joe Musa led the league with 45 and 40 goals in the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons.
The Sunshine Hockey League evolved into the Southern Hockey League in 1995 as Lakeland, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville joined Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Huntsville, Alabama in the new league.
West Palm Beach Blaze (38-6-1)
Jacksonville Bullets (22-23-2)
Daytona Beach Sun Devils (18-25-5)
Lakeland Ice Warriors (18-30-4)
St. Petersburg Renegades (10-6-4)
Playoffs: West Palm Beach defeated Lakeland 2-1, Jacksonville defeated Daytona Beach 2-0, West Palm Beach defeated Jacksonville 3-0.
West Palm Beach Blaze (37-14-3)
Jacksonville Bullets (32-21-1)
Lakeland Ice Warriors (23-28-3)
Daytona Beach Sun Devils (16-34-3)
Playoffs: West Palm Beach defeated Daytona Beach 2-0, Jacksonville defeated Lakeland 2-0, West Palm Beach defeated Jacksonville 3-0.
West Palm Beach (38-15-4)
Jacksonville Bullets (33-23-1)
Daytona Beach Sun Devils (23-32-1)
Lakeland Ice Warriors (18-37-1)
Fresno Falcons (9-7-0)
Playoffs: West Palm Beach defeated Daytona Beach 2-0, Jacksonville defeated Lakeland 1-0, West Palm Beach defeated Jacksonville 3-0.