Greenville Swamp Rabbits
|Greenville Swamp Rabbits|
|2018–19 ECHL season|
|City||Greenville, South Carolina|
|Founded||1987 (In the AAHL)|
|Home arena||Bon Secours Wellness Arena|
|Colors||Navy blue, orange, gold, silver, white|
|Owner(s)||South Carolina Pro Hockey, LLC|
(headed by Steve Donner)
|General manager||Steve Donner|
|Head coach||Kevin Kerr|
|2010–2015||Greenville Road Warriors|
|2015–present||Greenville Swamp Rabbits|
|Regular season titles||1 (2010–11)|
|Division Championships||1 (2010–11)|
The Greenville Swamp Rabbits are a professional ice hockey team located in Greenville, South Carolina. They play in the South Division of the ECHL's Eastern Conference and play their home games at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in downtown Greenville. The franchise had previously played as the Johnstown Chiefs from the ECHL's inception in 1988 until the team's relocation in 2010 and subsequently as the Greenville Road Warriors until being re-branded as the Swamp Rabbits in 2015. The Swamp Rabbits are the second ECHL franchise to play in Greenville, as the city hosted the Greenville Grrrowl from 1998 until 2006.
Greenville Road Warriors (2010–2015)
The franchise was founded as the Johnstown Chiefs prior to the 1987–88 All-American Hockey League season. The next season, the franchise became one of the founding members of the East Coast Hockey League, which would be rebranded as the ECHL in 2003. The Chiefs would flounder for several years as the owners of the team tried to find new local ownership, but failed. After losing a reported $100,000 per year and facing an expensive rent posted by the their arena's new owners, the Chiefs began taking offers to relocate the team. On February 13, 2010, the Tribune-Democrat began reporting that parties in Greenville, South Carolina, were in negotiations with Chiefs' owner Neil Smith about relocating the team for the 2009–10 season out of the BI-LO Center.
Two days later, it was confirmed previous reports that the Chiefs would relocate, pending approval by Greenville's arena board and the ECHL's board of governors. On February 15, the Greenville Arena District Board announced that they had agreed to a five-year deal to bring the Chiefs to the Bi-Lo Center. Cincinnati Cyclones assistant coach Dean Stork was named the team's first head coach on June 29.
The Greenville Road Warriors' inaugural season was successful and they became the second first-year team in the ECHL to win a regular season conference title with 46–22–4 record. Led by rookie head coach Dean Stork, the Road Warriors had nine players with at least 40 points during the regular season and a defense that gave up the second-fewest goals in the league (192). The 2011 Kelly Cup playoffs began with the top-seeded Road Warriors taking on the eighth-place Elmira Jackals. A split of the first two games in Elmira left the series tied and headed back to Greenville. The Road Warriors took the next two games, a 2–0 win in game three and an overtime win in game four, to move on to the second round. The Road Warriors then took on the Wheeling Nailers, splitting the first two games at the BI-LO Center. The Nailers then went up 3–1 in the series with wins in games three and four in Wheeling. Greenville responded by winning game five (5–1) and game six (6–3) to force a game seven at the BI-LO Center. Greenville never led during regulation, but Brendan Connolly scored the game tying goal with 23 seconds left in the third period to force overtime. The Road Warriors comeback fell short when Wheeling converted a 2-on-1 just over eight minutes into overtime and ended Greenville's season.
The Road Warriors' second season in the ECHL saw the team finish second in the South Division, fourth in the Eastern Conference, with a 41–25–6 record. The team posted the sixth-most goals (232, 3.22 per game). Justin Bowers finished third in the league with 78 points and was second with 59 assists while Brandon Wong (31, 6th) and Marc-Olivier Vallerand (30, 7th) finished in the top ten in the league in goals. On the defensive side, rookie goalie, and New York Rangers prospect, Jason Missiaen was 12–5–2 over a span where he played of 18 of 19 games, finishing the season with 22 wins.
In the playoffs, Greenville took on the fifth-seeded Florida Everblades in a best-of-five Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Florida had won eight of its final 10 games of the regular season and the Road Warriors lost the first two games in Florida by scores of 5–2 and 4–2 before returning home for game three. It would be the final game of the season as Florida notched a 3–2 win and completed the sweep.
Road Warriors under new ownership
During the 2012 playoffs, the Road Warriors' owners, Neil Smith and Steve Posner, sold the franchise to a local ownership group led by Fred Festa and his Chestnut Street Sports LLC.
The 2012–13 season was one of many milestones for the Road Warriors, both individual and as a team. Head coach Dean Stork getting his 100th victory behind the Greenville and captain T.J. Reynolds played in his 600th professional game. The Road Warriors also saw a 9% rise in attendance over the previous season. On three different occasions, the team had record crowds larger than any from the previous two seasons with largest of 7,529 on March 2, 2013. In the first half of the season, Gwinnett and Greenville traded the first place position in the South Division. However, after going 26–14–4 in the first half of the season the team struggled during the second half and went 10–13–4. Greenville fell to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and clinched the eighth playoff seed with 80 points in the regular season.
The Road Warriors' opponent in the best-of-seven series, the Reading Royals, collected 99 points for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. Greenville was shutout in games one and two in Reading. Back on home ice, Greenville was finally scored in game three and a 4–2 victory. The Road Warriors then lost the next two games and Reading collected two more shutouts in games four and five to win the series 4-games-to-1. Reading would go on to win the Kelly Cup, making 2012–13 the second straight season the Road Warriors would be eliminated by the eventual league champions.
The 2013–14 season saw the Road Warriors reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in their four-year history. The beginning of the season got off to the worst start in team history. Aside from the first few weeks of the season, the team did not peak over a .500 winning percentage until the second weekend in January. The Road Warriors then earned a three-game weekend sweep of the Evansville IceMen. From February 8 through March 28, the Road Warriors earned a 16–4–0 record, putting them in playoff contention. This push helped the team clinch the sixth playoff seed with a 39–27–2–4 record and fourth consecutive playoff appearance under Dean Stork.
The Road Warriors drew the Kalamazoo Wings in the first round of the playoffs. The series began with the teams splitting games and was evened at two games apiece to even the series going into game five. On April 26, the Road Warriors played the longest game to date in a three overtime battle against the Wings. Kyle Jean scored the winning goal in a game that lasted 4 hours and 21 minutes. The Road Warriors won game six to move on to the second round for the first time in two years. The Wheeling Nailers were the next opponent in the 2014 Kelly Cup playoffs. The Road Warriors began the series winning two games on the road. The Nailers battled back to even the series. While in front of home fans, the Road Warriors won game five by a score of 4–1 and three nights later, shutout the Nailers 4–0 in game six to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cincinnati Cyclones. The two games again split the first four games, but the Cyclones won games five and six to end the Road Warriors hopes at a championship.
After a less successful 2014–15 season that saw the team finish with a 39–29–1–3 record and miss the playoffs for the first time since relocating to Greenville, head coach Dean Stork was released.
Greenville Swamp Rabbits (2015–present)
On August 26, 2015, the team announced that it had officially rebranded itself as the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The team was renamed to the Swamp Rabbits to strengthen the team's ties to Greenville. The name Swamp Rabbits was a local name of the Greenville and Northern Railway that began operations in 1920. In 2005 the railroad was abandoned and was converted to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The first season of the Swamp Rabbits and under first-year head coach Brian Gratz was 29–33–9–1. The New York Rangers extended their affiliation with Greenville through the 2017–18 season but would then affiliate with the new Maine Mariners for 2018–19 instead of Greenville.
The Swamp Rabbits would finish the 2016–17 season with a 40–26–5–1 record and secured the second seed in the South Division for the playoffs. The Swamp Rabbits would lose to intrastate rivals, the South Carolina Stingrays, four-games-to-two in the first round.
During the 2017–18 season, owner Fred Festa sold the Swamp Rabbits to a multi-partner ownership group called South Carolina Pro Hockey, LLC, headed by former Rochester Americans' owner Steve Donner. The new ownership group confirmed their intentions of keeping the Swamp Rabbits in Greenville. At the end of the season and a last place finish in the Eastern Conference, the Swamp Rabbits fired third-year head coach Brian Gratz with a compiled 93–99–21–3 record. The team then hired Kevin Kerr as head coach after serving in the same capacity with the Macon Mayhem in the Southern Professional Hockey League for the previous three seasons. The Swamp Rabbits also entered the 2018–19 season independent of an NHL affiliate.
|Season||GP||W||L||OTL||SOL||Pts||GF||GA||Standing||Year||1st round||2nd round||3rd round||Kelly Cup Finals|
|2010–11||72||46||22||3||1||96||255||192||1st, South||2011||W, 3–1, ELM||L, 3–4, WHL||—||—|
|2011–12||72||41||25||2||4||88||232||215||2nd, South||2012||L, 0–3, FLA||—||—||—|
|2012–13||72||36||28||2||6||80||226||219||4th, South||2013||L, 2–4, REA||—||—||—|
|2013–14||72||39||27||2||4||84||220||208||3rd, South||2014||W, 4–2, KAL||W, 4–2, WHL||L, 2–4, CIN||—|
|2014–15||72||39||29||1||3||82||216||215||5th, East||2015||Did not qualify|
|2015–16||72||29||33||9||1||68||205||243||5th, South||2016||Did not qualify|
|2016–17||72||40||26||5||1||86||251||252||2nd, South||2017||L, 2–4, SC||—||—||—|
|2017–18||72||24||40||7||1||56||202||284||7th, South||2018||Did not qualify|
|2018–19||72||25||41||3||3||56||192||254||7th, South||2019||Did not qualify|
- Mastovich, Mike (February 13, 2010). "Rumors continue about Chiefs relocation". Tribune-Democrat. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
- Mastovich, Mike (February 15, 2010). "Chiefs plan to move franchise to South Carolina". Tribune-Democrat. Retrieved February 16, 2010.
- "Greenville Road Warriors hockey franchise sold". Charlotte Business Journal. April 3, 2012.
- "2012-13 Greenville Road Warriors Results and Schedule". Hockeydb. Hockeydb. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- Seyler, Lin (April 3, 2013). "Reading Royals' playoff journey about to begin". BCTV. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- Hosea, Myron (April 6, 2014). "Road Warriors could clinch playoff berth today". The Greenville News. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- "Thumbs Up: Warriors begin their quest for the Kelly Cup". The Greenville News. April 18, 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- "Road Warriors Rally Past Nailers 4-1". ECHL Network. May 8, 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- Howell, Chase (May 28, 2014). "Cyclones to compete for third Kelly Cup after OT win". Cincinnati News. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- "Greenville Road Warriors Rebrand as Swamp Rabbits". ECHL. August 26, 2015.
- "A New Era: Greenville Swamp Rabbits". Official Website of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. August 25, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
- "STANDINGS". echl.com. Archived from the original on 10 June 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
- "Maine Mariners announce affiliation with New York Rangers". Marinersofmaine.com. April 9, 2018.
- "Greenville's Swamp Rabbits hockey team sold". The Greenville News. January 3, 2018.
- "Swamp Rabbits Search for New Head Coach". OurSportsCentral.com. April 18, 2018.
- "Kevin Kerr Takes Over as Swamp Rabbits Head Coach". Greenville Swamp Rabbits. May 23, 2018.
- "Greenville Swamp Rabbits roster". Greenville Swamp Rabbits. 2016-07-15. Retrieved 2016-07-17.