The ECHL will have a third team in Florida next season.
At a press conference a short time ago, the Evansville IceMen announced the franchise is relocating to Jacksonville, Florida and will begin play their next season. The move was unanimously approved at an ECHL Board of Governors meeting in Glens Falls, NY last month.
The IceMen will be in the south division with the Orlando Solar Bears, Florida Everblades, South Carolina Stingrays, Atlanta Gladiators, Norfolk Admirals and Cincinnati Cyclones.
“The City of Jacksonville is thrilled to welcome the Jacksonville IceMen to our sports and entertainment landscape,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “We are excited about bringing the professional hockey to our Veterans Memorial Arena.”
The team will continue to be known as the IceMen and will play their games at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The 13,141-seat venue opened in 2003 and was part of then-mayor John Delaney‘s plan to revitalize the downtown area. It has played host to the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament in 2006, 2010 and 2015, and is home to the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks, who recently generated the highest attendance for a tenant in the arena’s history.
“Jacksonville is a natural fit for professional hockey,” said Ron Geary. “We looked at the enthusiastic support current teams receive here and are excited to join them in providing Jacksonville fans with solid-priced family sports entertainment.” Geary will remain on as the team’s owner and Chief Operating Officer.
“There is no better way for the ECHL to celebrate it’s 30th season next year than to have hockey back here in Jacksonville,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “I can’t wait to be back here in the Fall to drop the puck.”
“We are honored to bring professional hockey back to Jacksonville,” IceMen President Bob Ohrablo said. “We are committed to ensuring that everyone who attends IceMen games will enjoy a competitive team and plenty of entertainment surrounding our games – all at family affordable prices. In addition, we will ensure that the IceMen organization becomes a solid corporate citizen in Jacksonville.”
The Jacksonville Lizard Kings competed in the ECHL for five seasons from 1995-96 through 1999-2000, reaching the Riley Cup Finals in its first season. The last hockey team in Jacksonville, the Barracudas, folded in 2008.
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