Pro Hockey Coming to Savannah, Georgia

I just read today that minor league hockey is coming to Savannah, Georgia in 2022. That’s a big deal for the coastal city. For years, Savannah has been overlooked or bypassed by minor leagues mostly due to the lack of facilities. I always thought hockey or arena football would be a good fit. It appears that all this has changed now that the construction of the new Savannah Arena is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2022.

The new hockey team will play in the ECHL which is one of the largest minor leagues.  Savannah’s ECHL hockey team will be owned by Roo Hockey, LLC, with the organization being established immediately and a permanent business office planned to open in the city in July, according to Roo Hockey CEO Andy Kaufmann.

It isn’t that Savannah hasn’t had minor league teams in the city but the lack of facilities has hindered professional sports teams in the area.  Here’s a few that have tried:

Savannah Spirits

The Spirits were a team in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) which played 1986-1988 at the Savannah Civic Center.  The franchise moved to Savannah from Detroit.  They were coached by Charley Rosen.  The Spirits never got a good following and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma after the 1987-1988 season.

Savannah Rugratz

Very few knew about this team in the short-lived Eastern Indoor Soccer League (EISL) which lasted two seasons (1997-1998). They were going to come back to play in 1999 but the league folded due to low attendance and a lack of working agreement with a higher level league.

Savannah Braves/Cardinals/Sand Gnats

Savannah has mostly been known for their minor league baseball teams through the years which have called Historic Grayson Stadium home. The Savannah Braves were the most famous team but the franchise moved to Greenville, South Carolina in 1984.  

Savannah Banannas

The Banannas have been pretty successful since they started playing in the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer league, in 2016.  They won the league championship in their first season.

Hockey in Savannah isn’t a foreign concept.  Since 1999, Savannah has hosted the Savannah Hockey Classic which is an annual tournament featuring mostly club hockey teams from Southeastern colleges such as the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State and the University of Florida.  The University of Georgia Ice Dawgs have won the Savannah Classic nine times.

Next on the agenda for the new Savannah hockey team is a name.  Details about a name-the-team-contest will be coming.  For more information about Savannah’s pro hockey team, go to www.savannahprohockey.com

Here are some ideas I came up with for the new team:

  • Savannah Mariners
  • Savannah Steamers
  • Savannah Phantoms
  • Savannah Poseidions

Whatever the name will be, they will have some natural rivalries against EHCL teams Atlanta Gladiators, the South Carolina Stingrays, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and the Jacksonville Icemen.

Team Of The Week: Florida Everblades

florida_everblades_logo_svgClever nickname for this minor league hockey team located in Estero, Florida near Fort Myers.  The team plays in the ECHL and are affiliated with the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League (NHL).  They began play in 1998 and have only missed the playoffs once in team history.  They have been in the finals three times and won the title in 2012.

The name came about when the current general manager, Craig Brush, was inspired to bring a minor league hockey team to Southwest Florida while reading a free copy of a National Geographic magazine that featured articles on the Florida Everglades.

The Everblades are one of the ECHL’s stronger franchises and constantly at the top of the league in attendance.

Most notable former players include:  Scott Darling (won Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2015), Shane Hnidy (won Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011) and Chad LaRose (won Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006).

The Everblades are currently in second place in the South Division with a record of 4-0-1.   They are one of two last remaining teams in the ECHL which has not lost a game this season.