Huntsville Channel Cats

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"Huntsville Tornado" redirects here. For tornadoes that have struck Huntsville, Alabama, see Huntsville, Alabama Tornado.
Huntsville Channel Cats
Huntsville channel cats.png
City Huntsville, Alabama
League Southern Hockey League (1995–96)
Central Hockey League (1996–2002)
South East Hockey League (2003–04)
Founded 1995–2003
Home arena Von Braun Center
Colors teal, black, and white
Head coach Larry Floyd (1996–1998)
Chris Stewart (1998–1999)
Pat Bingham (1999–2000)
Craig Coxe (2000–2001)
Brad Gratton (2001)
John Gibson (2003–2004)
Franchise history
1995–2000 Huntsville Channel Cats
2000–2001 Huntsville Tornado
2003–2004 Huntsville Channel Cats
Championships
Regular season titles 2003–2004 (SEHL)
Division Championships 1996–1997 (CHL)
1998–1999 (CHL)
Playoff championships 1995–1996 President's Cup (SHL)
1998–1999 Ray Miron President's Cup (CHL)
2003–2004 President's Championship Cup (SEHL)

The Huntsville Channel Cats was a professional ice hockey team based in Huntsville, Alabama. The franchise was a member of several different leagues, the Southern Hockey League (1995–1996), the Central Hockey League (1996–2001) and the South East Hockey League (2003–2004). They played their home games at Von Braun Center Arena in downtown Huntsville.

Early years (1995–1999)[edit]

In 1995 two doctors in Knoxville, Tennessee, John Staley and John Minchey, created a new hockey franchise in Huntsville to join the newly expanded Southern Hockey League. The Channel Cats won the league's first and only championship, as the SHL folded later that year. The Channel Cats then joined the eastern division of the Central Hockey League for the 1996–1997 season. The Channel Cats remained with the CHL for five seasons winning the CHL championship (Ray Miron President's Cup) in 1999.

New ownership (2000–2004)[edit]

Logo of the Huntsville Tornado (2000–2001)

Following the 1999 championship win the team was sold to a Boaz, Alabama, businessman, John Cherney. Cherney felt that the team had a bad name with the local business community and changed the name of the team to the Huntsville Tornado along with the team colors to red and white. Many fans took offense to the new name that referenced a tornado that struck South Huntsville in 1989 killing 21 people. The new 2000–2001 seasons saw many fan favorites leave the team, and with a drop down in the standings resulted in a drop in attendance. Amid concerns over sharing arena space and weekend dates with the UAH Chargers hockey team and the new NBDL Huntsville Flight basketball team, as well as the CHL's desire to contract to more South-Central US markets, the team did not compete in the next two seasons. Cherney had also threatened to move the team to Madison, a suburb of Huntsville, if he did not get the dates he wanted, to no avail.

In 2002, Cherney became involved in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL), but in 2003 founded a new league named the South East Hockey League (SEHL). After the formation of the league, he asked the Huntsville hockey community if he would re-establish a team what name they would like to see play, the Tornado or Channel Cats. The public responded with the Channel Cats. The Channel Cats were revived for the 2003–2004 season and win the only SEHL league championship in the 4-team league.

The end of a dynasty[edit]

Following the 2003-2004 season, both the SEHL and World Hockey Association 2 (WHA2) fell into disarray. Keith Jeffries, president of HSV Sports, LLC and whose company had been contracted to run the Channel Cats front office during the 2003-2004 season (and also operated the Tennessee Valley Vipers AF2 franchise) made a bid to have a new hockey team in the upstart Eastern Hockey League (later to be renamed the Southern Professional Hockey League before the league first season) be placed in Huntsville. The new league would join teams from the now-defunct WHA2 and soon to be defunct SEHL. The Von Braun Center chose to accept the new franchise over the Cats, bringing an end to the Channel Cats name. Other teams from the SEHL soon followed Huntsville's lead and joined the SPHL as well. The new franchise would be named the Huntsville Havoc, and would successfully carry on the legacy of pro hockey in Huntsville.

Year-by-Year Results[edit]

Season League GP W L T OTL Pts Pct GF GA PIM Coach Finish Playoffs
1995–96 SHL 60 25 31 2 0 56 0.467 274 294 2191 Larry Floyd 4th Won Championship, 4–1 (Winston-Salem)
1996–97 CHL 66 39 24 3 0 81 0.614 311 297 2111 Larry Floyd 1st, East Lost in round 2, 2–4 (Memphis)
1997–98 CHL 70 40 22 8 0 88 0.629 333 281 2374 Larry Floyd 3rd, East Lost in round 1, 0–3 (Nashville)
1998–99 CHL 70 47 19 0 4 98 0.671 310 251 2313 Chris Stewart 1st, East Won Championship, 4–2 (Oklahoma City)
1999–00 CHL 70 37 27 0 6 80 0.529 242 244 2350 Pat Bingham 3rd, East Lost in round 1, 2–3 (Columbus)
2000–01
(Tornado)
CHL 70 31 36 0 3 65 0.443 217 275 1972 Craig Coxe (52 games)
Kent Hawley (18 games)
5th, East Did not qualify
2003–04 SEHL 56 43 13 0 0 86 0.768 233 164 1671 John Gibson 1st Won Championship, 3–0 (Knoxville)

Records[edit]

Team[edit]

(as of the 2006–2007 season these records are tied with other teams or are still held by Huntsville)

Most Consecutive Wins in a Season (Tied with other teams in the CHL)
12 1996–1997 Huntsville
Most Penalty Minutes (one team) in a Game (CHL)
241: 11/05/1999 Huntsville
Most Penalty Minutes (both teams) in a Game (CHL)
438: 11/05/1999 Fayetteville & Huntsville

Single-season[edit]

Goals: Chris George, 65 (98–99)
Assists: Jonathan DuBois, 92 (97–98)
Points: Jonathan DuBois, 129 (97–98)
Penalty Minutes: Mike Degurse, 346 (97–98)
GAA: Matt Carmichael, 2.74 (03–04)
SV%: Matt Carmichael, .922 (03–04)
Wins: Derek Puppa, 39 (98–99)

Play-Offs[edit]

Wins: Derek Puppa, 11 (98–99)

Career[edit]

Career Goals: Chris George, 234
Career Assists: Jonathan DuBois, 323
Career Points: Jonathan DuBois, 453
Career Penalty Minutes: Mike Degurse, 1312
Career Goaltending Wins: Matt Carmichael, 66
Career Shutouts: Brent Belecki, 3
Career Games: Chris George, 333

Retired Numbers[edit]

Name Number Date
Canada Phil Daigle 21 November 8, 2003
Canada Mike Degurse 33 Retired by the Huntsville Havoc on November 4, 2006
Canada Chris George 17 January 4, 2004
Canada John Gibson 23 November 8, 2003
Canada Derek Puppa 30 End of the 1999 season and again on November 8, 2003

Trivia[edit]

  • The trophy for the 1996 SHL championships was an old style metal milk can called "The Can".
  • Won at least one championship in each league of which it was a member.
  • After their SHL win in 1996 until the end of the 1999–2000 season, before each game Huntsville, Alabama was referred to as "the hockey capital of the South".
  • The mascot of the Huntsville Channel cats (and Huntsville Tornado) was a channel catfish named Finley. She wore a Huntsville Hockey jersey, gloves, helmet and ice skates.
  • The Huntsville Channel Cats was featured on the nationally televised No Opportunity Wasted. On that show United States Postal Service letter carrier Mike Orsini lived his dream of playing professional hockey. The game was on March 17, 2004 and in 29 minutes of play as a goalie allowed only one goal and got the win. It was also the last regular season game played by the Channel Cats.

Other Huntsville professional hockey teams[edit]