LAFAYETTE, LA — When Matt Harding asked me during the maiden voyage of our Inside The SPHL Podcast why this weekend’s matches between the Knoxville Ice Bears and Huntsville Havoc are called Title Belt Games, I began to explain – rather poorly – about the concept of a Championship Belt. I originally learned of the concept on Reddit, where readers of the NFL subreddit keep weekly track of a mythical Championship Belt (now tracked on its own website). The NFL team which is the current “holder” of the belt (as of 10/26/16, the Seattle Seahawks) defends it each week until they lose it to the team which defeats them.
Last summer, when I was desperately looking for something to occupy my time, I started on an eye-numbing quest, combing over a decade of league records to determine the history of a Title Belt for the SPHL. The first task, although pointless in the long run, was to determine who was the first ever holder of the SPHL Title Belt – currently in the ‘possession’ of the Knoxville Ice Bears. Going back to the first night of SPHL play – on October 29th, 2004 – four games were played:
- Columbus Cottonmouths 3, Knoxville Ice Bears 2
- Jacksonville Barracudas 5, Winston-Salem Polar Twins 3
- Asheville Aces 3, Fayetteville FireAntz 0
- Huntsville Havoc 4, Macon Trax 1
Since the Jacksonville Barracudas outscored all other teams on the very first SPHL opening night, I gave the ‘Cudas the distinction of being the first team to possess the belt. The decision turned out to be a solid one, since Jacksonville wound up defending their title four times before being dethroned by the Fayetteville FireAntz after a 4-1 victory on November 19, 2004. Since then, the Title Belt has – without fanfare – passed from team to team over the years. Here are a few fun facts about the belt:
- During the playoffs, since teams are playing for the (very real) President’s Cup, the (not very real) Title Belt is not in play. The team in possession of the Belt at the conclusion of the regular season gets the opportunity to defend it at the beginning of next season.
- Twice, the team in possession of the belt at the end of the regular season folded or suspended operations. In those cases, the belt reverts back to its previous holder.
- As of October 26, 2016, Title Belt has been contested in 659 games.
- Longest Defense: 16 games – Pensacola Ice Flyers from 2/22/14 to 11/14/14
- Longest Duration: 267 days – Pensacola Ice Flyers from 2/21/14 to 11/15/14
- Consecutive Title Belt Changes: During the 2004-05 season, the Title Belt changed hands during 12 straight games from 12/17/04 to 1/7/05.
- Consecutive Title Belt Games Played: 21 – Peoria Rivermen, (1/22/16 to 3/25/16)
- Most Goals, One Team: 12 – Columbus Cottonmouths on 3/15/05.
- Most Goals, Both Teams: 17 – Columbus 12, Knoxville 5 on 3/15/05.
- Biggest Blowout: 8 goals. Pensacola 9, Columbus 1 (1/1/11) & Huntsville 10, Columbus 2 (11/24/07)
- Biggest Shutout: 7-0 – Mississippi Surge vs Pensacola on 3/20/10 and Huntsville vs Fayetteville on 10/26/13.
- Fewest Goals, Both Teams: 1 – eight times
- Peoria Rivermen 1, Mississippi RiverKings 0 (11/25/17)
- Macon Mayhem 1, Pensacola Ice Flyers 0 (2/24/17)
- Louisiana IceGators 1, Mississippi RiverKings 0 (SO) (12/19/15)
- Louisiana 1 vs Mississippi RiverKings 0 (11/25/14)
- Huntsville 1 vs Pensacola 0 (1/21/11)
- Fayetteville 1 vs Pensacola 0 (1/21/09)
- Richmond Renegades 1, Twin City Cyclones 0 – (1/16/08)
- Fayetteville 1 vs Florida Seals 0 (1/26/06)
The complete history of the SPHL Title Belt can be viewed HERE. Perhaps, one summer from now, we will be able to have the history of this series in some kind of form where we can look at overall won/loss records and title defenses. Until then, enjoy looking over the spreadsheet.
When the Havoc and Ice Bears take the ice Friday night in Knoxville, the two teams will be playing more than a simple win in the league standings. Huntsville and Knoxville – the league’s most-contested rivalry – will be playing for a title which will be, unknowingly, contested for the 660th time since the league’s inception.
Have at it, boys.
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