EVANSVILLE, IN – The question of what minor pro hockey league will play in the Ford Center next season can finally be answered.
In an announcement at the Ford Center Monday afternoon, the Southern Professional Hockey League announced a new franchise will open play in Evansville beginning with the 2016-17 season.
The move to a lower league in Evansville comes after the City and Evansville IceMen owner Ron Geary could not reach a lease agreement for the IceMen to play at The Ford Center. Geary announced the ECHL team would move to Owensboro, KY for the 2016-17 season and beyond. Immediately after the announcement, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and city officials began the search for a new franchise.
The move of the Evansville IceMen from Evansville to Owensboro is very likely for next season, barring a disapproval from the ECHL’s Board of Governors. League rules prohibit teams from operating within a specified distance of each other, which is why the ECHL will not have a second team in the Evansville market.
“On behalf of the league’s Board of Governors, we are excited to welcome Evansville into the SPHL for the 2016-2017 season,” said SPHL President Jim Combs. “I would like to thank Mayor Winnecke, the city of Evansville, the Ford Center and especially Mike Hall for their commitment to the SPHL. We look forward to working with everyone involved to get this team off the ground and running for the loyal hockey fans of Evansville.”
The team will be owned by local business owner Mike Hall, who started as a season ticket holder with the IceMen.
“As a local hockey fan, I am honored to play an integral part of the next chapter in Evansville’s hockey history. My family’s investment is a testament to my belief that the SPHL model works and will produce an entertaining and competitive hockey experience at the Ford Center,” Hall said.
Hall also said at the team’s announcement that he is connected with former IceMen coach Jeff Pyle, but did not say if he would talk with him about a position in the new organization.
Hall says ticket packages will be available early next month.
The Sin Bin’s Mike Finazzo was at the announcement of the new franchise. Here is the video of the announcement:
Here is a Q & A between the media and key figures:
Finazzo also caught up with the key figures in keeping hockey in Evansville:
Evansville Franchise Owner Mike Hall:
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke:
SPHL President Jim Combs:
Travel arrangements for the new Evansville franchise will also be very accommodating, with four teams less than 350 miles from the Ford Center. Here is a breakdown of distance and travel hours from the Ford Center to other venues in the SPHL:
|SPHL Venue||Distance in Miles||Time Traveled in Hours and Minutes|
|Von Braun Center (Huntsville)||261.5 miles||3 hr, 59 minutes|
|Peoria Civic Center (Peoria)||276.4 miles||4 hr, 26 minutes|
|Landers Arena (Mississippi)||305.4 miles||4 hr, 45 minutes|
|Knoxville Civic Auditorium (Knoxville)||329.5 miles||4 hr, 45 minutes|
|Macon Coliseum (Macon)||481 miles||7 hr, 2 minutes|
|Columbus Civic Center (Columbus)||500 miles||7 hr, 14 minutes|
|Berglund Center (Roanoke)||548 miles||8 hr, 3 minutes|
|Pensacola Bay Center (Pensacola)||594.4 miles||8 hr, 27 minutes|
|Cajundome (Louisiana)||726 miles||10 hr, 41 minutes|
***The above table assumes no construction and driving straight through.***
A contest to name the team will also be facilitated by the ownership and the SPHL, which will seek input from hockey fans in the tri-state area.
With the addition of the Evansville franchise, this gives the SPHL 11 teams for next season. This past October, the league announced the addition of the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs, which will be run by the McGinn family.
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