Miami Matadors

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Miami Matadors
City Miami, Florida
League ECHL
Division Southeast Division
Founded 1998
Home arena Miami Arena

Black, gold, white

Owner(s) Davis-Snyder Sports Management, Inc.
General manager Robert M. Snyder
Head coach Terry Christensen
Captain Wes Swinson
Affiliates Florida Panthers (NHL)
Franchise history
1998–1999 Miami Matadors
1999–2001 inactive
2001–present Cincinnati Cyclones
Regular season titles None
Division Championships None
Conference Championships None
Kelly Cups None

The Miami Matadors were an ice hockey team in the East Coast Hockey League. They played in Miami, Florida, USA at the Miami Arena for one season before folding. The Matadors franchise would resurface several years later as the Cincinnati Cyclones.


The franchise began as the Louisville River Frogs in 1995. Robert Snyder bought the team in February 1998 with intentions of moving the team to South Florida.[1] Upon buying the team, he made the team a family business of sorts. His wife Michelle Dannin was named Vice President Of Communications, and his father Richard Snyder handled the team's legal matters.[1]

On May 12, 1998, Matadors Owner-President Robert Snyder signed a five-year agreement with Miami Arena that would allow the arena to host 35 games from October until April 4.[2] A coaching decision was made several days later when Snyder would name former Tallahassee Tiger Sharks head coach Terry Christensen as their head coach on May 16, 1998. Prior to the start of the 1998-99 ECHL season, the Matadors would announce that they would be the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Florida Panthers[3]

On October 16, 1998, the Matadors made their ECHL debut against the South Carolina Stingrays.[4] Fans that attended the opening night game received a Miami Matadors cape.[5] With an opening night crowd of 3,368 fans, the Matadors lost to the Stingrays 5-2[6]

In their only season as an ECHL franchise, the Matadors finished with a 28-32-10 record, finishing seventh in the ECHL's Southeast Division. The team's leading scorer was ex-Brown University center Michael Flynn, with 20 goals and 50 assists; center Greg Clancy was the leading goal scorer with 28. Among other notable Matadors were veteran minor league star Sheldon Gorski and goaltender Brent Belecki.


One of the primary selling points of the Matadors to the fans was the inexpensive ticket prices when compared to other sports. Snyder marketed to fans that a family of four could see a Matadors game for $50, which was a fraction of what you could see other professional sports teams in the area.[7] During the 1998-99 season it would cost a family of four $223 to see the NBA's Miami Heat and $273 to see the Matador's NHL affiliate, the Florida Panthers. Both the Heat and the Panthers were also tenants of Miami Arena.

Despite being involved with the community, the Matadors were never able to draw a crowd at the Miami Arena. The Matadors played in the 14,823 seat Miami Arena. Because of attendance problems, the upper bowl seats were never made available to the public. As a result, the lower bowl's were the only seats available, which reduced Miami Arena's seating capacity from 14,823 to 6,351. Even with the reduction in capacity, the Matadors never were able to sell out a single home game.[8] The ECHL average attendance was about 4,800 fans per game, but the Matadors were only drawing 1,553 fans per game.

The lack of attendance also took a financial hit on the team. Owner Robert Snyder moved the games from Miami Arena to a local public skating rink because he could not afford to play in Miami Arena on a weeknight.[9] Despite Snyder's offering free attendance to a game vs the Pee Dee Pride on March 3, 1999, only an estimated eighty fans showed up to watch the game.

Attendance became such a problem that the last two games were played in Estero, Florida at Germain Arena, home of the Florida Everblades. Matadors season ticket holders were given free tickets to the games there, though most chose not to make the two-hour drive.


After months of poor attendance and mounting debt in their inaugural season, the Matadors franchise was folded in 1999. During the sale of the team, a lawsuit was filed by Robert Alterman accusing the team's general partners (Robert Snyder and Robert Davis) of fraud. Alterman, a limited partner who has a 20% ownership share of the team, accused both Snyder and Davis of selling the team for well below the value that was represented to Alterman. Davis and Snyder had listed the team as being for sale for $1.2million. Alterman argues in his lawsuit that Davis and Snyder informed him that no team could be sold for less than $2million[10]

The team was eventually sold to a Birmingham, Alabama ownership group. Upon the folding of the IHL, the ownership relocated the Matadors' franchise and bought the rights to the Cincinnati Cyclones name that had been used since 1992. On July 16, 2001, it was confirmed that the "new" Cyclones franchise would start play as an ECHL team during the 2001-2002 season.


  • 05/19/98 - Matadors name Terry Christensen head coach.[11]
  • 10/21/98 - Matadors transfer defenseman Thom Cullen from the 10-day to the 14-day injured reserve; Matadors place forward Jan Jas on the 10-day injured reserve.[12]
  • 11/05/98 - Matadors activate Thom Cullen from 14-day injured reserve[13]
  • 11/15/98 - Matadors suspend center/left wing Mike Sancimino[14]
  • 12/08/98 - Matadors trade defenseman Wes Swinson and forward Mike Sancimino to Tallahassee Tiger Sharks for the rights to forward Dan Lupo[15]
  • 12/12/98 - Matadors waive forward Kevin Powell[16]
  • 01/16/99 - Matadors suspend defenseman Kelly Hultgren[17]
  • 02/05/99 - Matadors sign defenseman Eon MacFarlane; Matadors place center Jon Finstrom on waivers [18]
  • 02/11/99 - Matadors place center Andrew Long on 10-day injured reserve.[19]
  • 03/10/99 - Matadors sign Jed Fiebelkorn[20]
  • 03/14/99 - Matadors activate John Badduke from injured reserve[21]
  • 03/24/99 - Matadors sign forward Jason Carriere[22]
  • 03/29/99 - Matadors sign forward Matt Redmond[23]

Notable Personnel[edit]

  • Reijo Ruotsalainen - Former defenseman who was a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers prior to his arrival to the Matadors. Ruotsalainen was the Matadors' assistant coach.
  • Wes Swinson - Former Hartford Whalers draft pick, Swinson was named the first captain in Matadors' history on October 16, 1998
  • Brent Belecki - Starting goaltender of the Matadors. Belecki was named ECHL Rookie Of The Week once and Goaltender Of The Week on back to back weeks. Belecki had a 50 save victory in Miami's final home game.
  • Terry Lindgren - Only player in Matadors' history to be named to the ECHL All-Star game.
  • Lance Ward - former first round draft pick of the Florida Panthers, Ward would play 6 games with the Matadors. Ward would later go on to play over 200 games with the Panthers and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim of the NHL.


External links[edit]