Knoxville Ice Bears
|Knoxville Ice Bears|
|League||Southern Professional Hockey League|
|Home arena||Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum|
|Colors||Black, Purple, Orange
|General manager||Mike Murray|
|Head coach||Mike Craigen|
|2002–2003||Knoxville Ice Bears (ACHL)|
|2003–2004||Knoxville Ice Bears (SEHL)|
|2004–present||Knoxville Ice Bears (SPHL)|
|Regular season titles||4 (2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09)|
|Playoff championships||4 (2005-06, 2007-8, 2008-09, 2014-15)|
The Knoxville Ice Bears are a professional ice hockey team. The team competes in the Southern Professional Hockey League. They play their home games at Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Ice Bears are coached by Mike Craigen, a former Ice Bears fan favorite. He is in his 5th season as head coach. The Ice Bears have made the playoffs in all 13 years of their existence. In 2006 the Ice Bears defeated the Florida Seals to take their first President's Cup. The Ice Bears won back to back Presidents Cup Championships in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. On April 18, 2015, the Ice Bears defeated the Mississippi RiverKings 4-2 to sweep the 2015 SPHL Finals and win their 4th Presidents Cup.
The Knoxville Ice Bears were founded in 2002 as a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. After finishing as runner up to the Orlando Seals in the 2002-2003 season, the Ice Bears moved to the new South Eastern Hockey League. Again, they finished as a runner up in the playoffs to the Huntsville Channel Cats for 2003-2004. The team again moved hockey leagues and joined with the new Southern Professional Hockey League. In the SPHL's first season, the Ice Bears won the regular season championship Commissioner's Cup but lost in the second round (after a first round bye) to the eventual champions for 2004–2005, the Columbus Cottonmouths.
Finally, in 2005-2006, the Ice Bears secured the Commissioner's Cup and the President's Cup by beating the Florida Seals in Game 4 of a best-of-5 series. In 2006-2007 the team was eliminated in the league semifinals with two straight losses to the Fayetteville FireAntz. In 2007-2008, the Ice Bears once again secured the Commissioners Cup, now renamed the William B. Coffey Trophy. In the 2008 President Cup playoffs the Ice Bears faced the Columbus Cottonmouths in the opening round after winning the first two games in Knoxville (4-2 & 5-2) the Ice Bears dropped the next two in Columbus by the identical score of 4-2.
In the fifth and deciding game the Ice Bears won comfortably on home ice 6-3. The championship, Best-of-Five, series started on April 10 with Knoxville coming out on top of the Jacksonville Barracudas 6-2. The scene switched to Jacksonville for game two on April 12 where the Ice Bears pulled out a hard fought 4-3 win. The brooms were out at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum the following night (April 13) and the Ice Bears didn’t disappoint as they jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but Jacksonville fought back to tie the game at 2-2 after 20 minutes. However, in the second period Tim Vitek scored to put Knoxville ahead to stay and added another in the third for the final score of 4-E2. Rookie goalie Kirk Irving took home playoff MVP honors. The President Cup title was the Ice Bears second in three years.
In 2008-2009 the Ice Bears again won the William B. Coffey Trophy. They headed to the 1st round where they faced the Huntsville Havoc. The Ice Bears won games 1 & 2 at home 6-4 and 4-2. The Ice Bears then lost games 3 & 4 on the road 4-2 and 4-3. The 5th and deciding game the Ice Bears went up 2-0 early. The Havoc came back and tied it at 2-2. At 11:48 of OT Tim Vitek scored and sent the Ice Bears to the SPHL Finals. In the Finals the Ice Bears faced rival Fayetteville in a Best 4 of 7 series. The Ice Bears won games comfortably 5-2. The Fire Antz tied the series up 1-1 with a 3-1 win the following night. The scene shifted to Fayetteville for games 3, 4 & 5. The Antz took 2 of 3 from Knoxville. In game 6, the cup on the line, The Ice Bears fell behind early. A tough battled game came down to the end. The Ice Bears trailing 4-3, they pulled the goalie. Tim Vitek scored at 18:49, with 1:11 left in the game. B. J. Pelkey then scored at 11:52 of OT to force a Game 7. In Game 7, The Ice Bears came out ready, scoring just 3:21 in. Fayetteville tied it up 1-1 at 15:05. It didn't take long as Chris Rebernik scored 2 unawnsered. The Ice Bears won the 3-1 and their second straight President's Cup.
Marc Rodgers took over in June 2009 after the departure of Scott Hillman.
On March 27, 2010, a bench clearing brawl erupted between The Ice Bears and arch rival Fayetteville. There was a total of 19 players ejected. In the 3rd with the Ice Bears winning 5-3, little players were remaining. The Ice Bears took a 9-4 lead. The Game was declared a forfeit at 10:45 of the 3rd period as Fayetteville had 2 skaters remaining after several Fayetteville players intentionally drew penalties so their team wouldn't have enough players to play. There was total of 26 games in all suspensions.
In the 2009-10 season the Ice Bears finished 4th out of 7 teams. They went to the play-offs to face the Fire Antz in a Best 2 of 3 series in the 1st round. The Ice Bears fell big 7-1 in game 1. The scene shifted to Knoxville for Game 2. Shortly after the clock struck Midnight the Ice Bears dramatically extended their season with a 6-5 OT win. Easter Sunday 2010 brought the Ice Bears good luck. They overcame a 3-0 lead in the 1st period. With 2 goals by Tim Vitek and 2 goals by B.J. Pelkey. The Ice Bears won 4-3 in OT sending them to the 2nd round. The Ice Bears faced another rival in the Huntsville Havoc in a Best 2 of 3 Series. The Ice Bears lost game 1, 5-1 in Huntsville on Wednesday April 7, 2010. 2 days later the Ice Bears season was again on the line at home. Unfortunately the Ice Bears great back-2-back Regular season and League championship run came to an end on Friday April 9, 2010 as they were defeated 3-1 in game 2 by the eventual champions Havoc.
After the 2009-10 season Ice Bears star and SPHL All-time leading scorer Kevin Swider retired. On July 12, 2010 Swider was named Ice Bears Director of Hockey Operations and Youth Hockey School Director. Swider won every Scoring title from 2004-2010 all 6 years of the SPHL's existence to that point. Swider came out of retirement in the summer of 2011 and is on the roster for the Ice Bears' 2011-2012 season, where he leads the league in scoring yet again.
On June 29, 2010, head coach Marc Rodgers and the Ice Bears parted ways. It is still not clear if Rodgers was fired or resigned.
On August 2, 2010 The Ice Bears introduced Mike Craigen as head coach. Craigen, a Buckhorn, Ontario, Canada native was a former Ice Bears player and fan favorite from 2004-2008. He was a part of Knoxville's 2006 & 2008 President's Cup Championship teams.
The 2010-11 season saw the Ice Bears finish 6th out of 8 teams. Having clinched the final playoff spot the weekend before, the ice Bears went into the Playoffs as the last seeded team against the best Mississippi Surge. The Ice Bears scored 5 goals in the 3rd period to rally to a 6-4 win in game 1. Game 2 was different as the Surge dominated to an 8-1 win. Games 3 and 4 were back in Knoxville in front of over 2,500 fans each night. Game 3 saw the Ice Bears score first, but fall 3-2 in OT. In Game 4, the Ice Bears faced elimination. The Ice Bears fell down early but came back with shorthanded and penalty shot goals and they never backed down. The Bears rolled to an easy 4-2 win to force a game 5. In game 5, the Bears took the lead with a late 1st period goal by Mike Bulawka. But unfortunately, the Ice Bears wouldn't score again and fell 3-1 and their season was done.
The 2011-12 season showed decent success. The Ice Bears started a 9-game winning streak on December 1, 2011 with a 5-3 win at Augusta. The streak ended with a 5-3 loss at Huntsville on December 28. The streak lasted 27 days and was tied for the longest in team history. Another milestone set in this season saw the Ice Bears starting 13-0 at home. The Ice Bears opened the streak on opening night, a 5-3 win over the Mississippi Surge. The home winning streak lasted until January 5, 2012 as the Bears lost 6-5 to the Surge, who happened to be the last team to beat them at home the April before during the playoffs. A low-point in the season, was that of the promotion of G Bryan Hince to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL. Hince had started the season 16-1, with his only loss coming against the Pensacola Ice Flyers. The Ice Bears struggled after this transaction. They lost 6 straight games from January 20 to February 9. The Ice Bears never left the top 3 in the standings the entire season. 2nd place is where they sat the most. The Bears did manage to gain 1st place for 1 week after they ousted Augusta with a 5-1 win at home. Knoxville finished 3rd out of 9 teams on the season. They were matched up with the 6th seeded Mississippi RiverKings in Round 1. The series was a best of 3. Game 1 saw the Bears struggle at home, ultimately losing 6-3. Their season was on the line as the headed to Mississippi for Game 2. Knoxville managed to pull off a 4-2 victory to force a game 3 back in Knoxville. The Ice Bears took a 1-0 lead on a slapshot goal from Dan Bremner. But, the RiverKings tied the game less than a minute later. Then, in the 3rd period, with the Bears clinging to a 4-3 lead, Kevin Swider took a slapshot that's rebound found Bremner's stick who tapped in the rebound. Bremner finished off the hat trick with an empty net goal. Knoxville won the game 6-3 and the series 2-1, to advance to the 2nd round. However, the Bears struggled in the 2nd round. Stellar goaltending by Steve Christie led the Pensacola IceFlyers to 4-1 and 1-0 wins over Knoxville, and a 2-0 series sweep.
In October 9, 2012, the team announced that they had partnered with the NHL Nashville Predators to host a preseason game against rivals Huntsville, at Bridgestone Arena, the Predators home ice, on October 20. The event is free to all Ice Bears season ticket holders.
On April 18, 2015, the Ice Bears won their 4th Presidents Cup, ending a six year drought. Ice Bears goalie Bryan Hince took home the SPHL Playoffs MVP Award after winning his last five starts in the playoffs and allowing less than 2 goals per game.
- Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum - 2002–present
General Manager history
- Tony Martino - 2002-03
- Jim Bermingham - 2003-07
- Scott Hillman - 2007-09
- Marc Rodgers - 2009-10
- Mike Craigen - 2010–present
- Steve Zoryk - 2002-2003
- Craig Desjarlais - 2003-2004
- Todd MacIsaac - 2004-2005
- Doug Searle - 2005-2006
- Kevin Swider - 2006-2010
- Mike Bulawka - 2010 - 2011
- Kevin Swider - 2011 - 2012
- Mark Van Vliet (co-captain) - 2013–2014
- David Segal (co-captain) - 2012–2015
- Jason Price - 2015–Present
The Knoxville Ice Bears have won 4 William B. Coffey Trophies as the Regular season champions and 4 President's Cup Championships as the playoff champions.
Notable Former Ice Bears
- Kyle Bochek - Bloomington Blaze (CHL)
- Derek Foam - South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL)
- Bryan Hince - San Francisco Bulls (ECHL)
- Jason LePine - Iserlohn Roosters (DEL)
- Ervins Mustukovs - Sheffield Steelers (EIHL)
- Nick Niedert - Bloomington Blaze (CHL)
- Mike Towns - Idaho Steelheads (ECHL)
- Jason Weeks - Tulsa Oilers (CHL)