Southern Professional Hockey League
|Most recent season or competition:|
2020–21 SPHL season
|No. of teams||11|
|Pensacola Ice Flyers |
|Most titles||Knoxville Ice Bears and Pensacola Ice Flyers (4 each)|
The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in Huntersville, North Carolina, with teams located primarily in the southeastern United States as well as Illinois and Indiana in the midwestern United States.
Following the 2020–21 season, the Pensacola Ice Flyers are the reigning President's Cup champions. As of 2021, the Knoxville Ice Bears are the most successful team in SPHL history, having won four William B. Coffey Trophies as the regular season champions and four President's Cup playoff championships. The Peoria Rivermen have also won four William B. Coffey Trophies, while Pensacola has also won four President's Cups.
The SPHL's history traces back to three other short-lived leagues. The Atlantic Coast Hockey League started play in the 2002–03 season. After its only season, the ACHL dissolved with member teams forming the nucleus for two rival leagues, the South East Hockey League and the World Hockey Association 2. After one season the SEHL and WHA2 disbanded, with their surviving teams rejoining with two expansion teams to form the SPHL, commencing with the 2004–05 season.
In 2009, the SPHL saw a large expansion with three new franchises, in Biloxi, Mississippi, Lafayette, Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida. In 2010, the league added an expansion team in Augusta, Georgia, another former long time ECHL market. For the 2011–12 season, the league added two-time Central Hockey League champions, the Mississippi RiverKings. For the 2013–14 season, the league lost the Augusta RiverHawks but also expanded northward with two franchises in Illinois: the Bloomington Thunder, a team also moving from the CHL, where they were known as the Bloomington Blaze, and the Peoria Rivermen, who were replacing an American Hockey League team of the same name in their market. In 2015, the Augusta franchise returned and relocated to Macon, Georgia as the Macon Mayhem.
In November 2014, Shannon Szabados became the first female goaltender to win an SPHL game, when the Columbus Cottonmouths defeated the Fayetteville FireAntz 5–4 in overtime. In that same game Erin Blair and Katie Guay became the first female officials to referee an SPHL game.
At the end of the 2015–16 season, the Louisiana IceGators announced a one-year leave of absence for renovations to their arena but never returned. The IceGators' franchise was sold and reactivated as the Quad City Storm in 2018. Then in 2016, the dormant Mississippi Surge franchise was relocated to Southwest Virginia to become the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. One of the inaugural SPHL teams, the Columbus Cottonmouths, suspended operations in 2017 after failing to find a buyer while an expansion team called the Birmingham Bulls were accepted into the league as the tenth team. Following the 2017–18 season, the Mississippi RiverKings suspended operations while the league searched for new owners. With the acceptance of the Quad City Storm, the league was able to remain at ten teams for the 2018–19 season.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019–20 season was curtailed and no champion was named. The following season, the league announced it would only play with five of the ten member teams due to pandemic-related capacity restrictions barring fans from attending games. During the season, the league approved of the Vermilion County Bobcats as a 2021–22 expansion team based in Danville, Illinois.
|Birmingham Bulls||Pelham, Alabama||Pelham Civic Center||3,500||2017||Craig Simchuk|
|Evansville Thunderbolts||Evansville, Indiana||Ford Center||9,000||2016||Jeff Bes|
|Fayetteville Marksmen||Fayetteville, North Carolina||Crown Coliseum||8,920||2002||2004||Jesse Kallechy|
|Huntsville Havoc||Huntsville, Alabama||Von Braun Center||6,037||2004||Glenn Detulleo|
|Knoxville Ice Bears||Knoxville, Tennessee||Knoxville Civic Coliseum||5,937||2002||2004||Jeff Carr|
|Macon Mayhem||Macon, Georgia||Macon Coliseum||7,182||2010[a]||Kevin Kerr|
|Pensacola Ice Flyers||Pensacola, Florida||Pensacola Bay Center||8,150||2009||Rod Aldoff|
|Peoria Rivermen||Peoria, Illinois||Carver Arena||9,919||2013||Jean-Guy Trudel|
|Quad City Storm||Moline, Illinois||TaxSlayer Center||9,200||2009[a]||Dave Pszenyczny|
|Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs||Roanoke, Virginia||Berglund Center||8,672||2009[a]||Dan Bremner|
|Vermilion County Bobcats||Danville, Illinois||David S. Palmer Arena||2,350||2021||Brent Hughes|
- Relocated franchise
Defunct and relocated teams
- Asheville Aces (2004–05)
- Augusta RiverHawks (2010–13) Moved to Macon, Georgia, as the Mayhem for the 2015–16 season.
- Bloomington Thunder (2013–14) Membership terminated to make way for a team in the United States Hockey League.
- Columbus Cottonmouths (2004–17) Inaugural member of the SPHL, suspended operations when ownership could no longer fund the team; could return under new ownership; in 2019 Columbus moved to the FPHL league and became the Columbus River Dragons. 
- Florida Seals (2005–07) Membership terminated in the middle of the 2006–07 SPHL season.
- Jacksonville Barracudas (2004–08) Suspended for the 2008–09 season and dissolved.
- Louisiana IceGators (2009–16) Suspended operations for the 2016–17 season claiming the arena needed the year for renovations but later dissolved. In 2018, the franchise was sold and became the Quad City Storm.
- Macon Trax (2004–05)
- Mississippi RiverKings (2011–18) Joined from the Central Hockey League in 2011, ownership suspended operations in 2018 while the league searches for new owners.
- Mississippi Surge (2009–14) Moved to Roanoke, Virginia, as the Rail Yard Dawgs for the 2016–17 season.
- Pee Dee Cyclones (2005–07) Moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
- Richmond Renegades (2006–09)
- Twin City Cyclones (2007–09)
- Winston-Salem Polar Twins (2004–05)
Key rule differences
As per minor leagues, there are some rule differences between the SPHL and the NHL (and even the ECHL and the AHL, the two official developmental leagues regulated by the Professional Hockey Players' Association).
- A team may dress eighteen regular players to a game. Two players dressed for the game will be goaltenders.
- A mouthpiece is required for all players except the goaltender.
- No curvature of stick limitations as in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL.
- Shootouts are five players. After five different players have made an attempt, teams may reuse anyone including those who have previously attempted in later rounds, even using the same player in consecutive rounds if desired.
Awarded to the league playoff champion.
|2005||Columbus Cottonmouths||Macon Trax|
|2006||Knoxville Ice Bears||Orlando Seals|
|2007||Fayetteville FireAntz||Jacksonville Barracudas|
|2008||Knoxville Ice Bears||Jacksonville Barracudas|
|2009||Knoxville Ice Bears||Fayetteville FireAntz|
|2010||Huntsville Havoc||Mississippi Surge|
|2011||Mississippi Surge||Augusta Riverhawks|
|2012||Columbus Cottonmouths||Pensacola Ice Flyers|
|2013||Pensacola Ice Flyers||Huntsville Havoc|
|2014||Pensacola Ice Flyers||Columbus Cottonmouths|
|2015||Knoxville Ice Bears||Mississippi RiverKings|
|2016||Pensacola Ice Flyers||Peoria Rivermen|
|2017||Macon Mayhem||Peoria Rivermen|
|2018||Huntsville Havoc||Peoria Rivermen|
|2019||Huntsville Havoc||Birmingham Bulls|
|2020||Not awarded due to the COVID-19 pandemic|
|2021||Pensacola Ice Flyers||Macon Mayhem|
|Knoxville Ice Bears||4|
|Pensacola Ice Flyers||4|
William B. Coffey Trophy
|2004–05||Knoxville Ice Bears||1|
|2005–06||Knoxville Ice Bears||2|
|2007–08||Knoxville Ice Bears||3|
|2008–09||Knoxville Ice Bears||4|
|2013–14||Pensacola Ice Flyers||1|
|2019–20||Not awarded due to season cancellation|
- "Doug Price Appointed Commissioner of the Southern Professional Hockey League". OurSportsCentral.com. January 17, 2019.
- Giardina, A.J. (April 9, 2009). "Local investors may bring another hockey team to the coast". WLOX-TV. Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
- Press release (April 30, 2009). "Biloxi to join SPHL". SPHL.com. Archived from the original on August 2, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- "Coast Hockey announces new team name". The Sun Herald. June 17, 2009. Retrieved June 17, 2009.[dead link]
- Foote, Kevin (May 15, 2009). "IceGators to skate again; join the discussion". Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Archived from the original on May 19, 2009. Retrieved May 15, 2009.
- Blakeney, Jason (April 30, 2009). "Hockey's Back!". Pensacola News Journal. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
- Blakeney, Jason (May 9, 2009). "Commentary: New team, new name, new opportunity". Pensacola News Journal. Archived from the original on May 14, 2009. Retrieved May 10, 2009.
- "Hockey Returning To Augusta, GA In 2010". TheSPHL.com. February 3, 2010. Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
- "Mississippi RiverKings Join SPHL For 2011–2012 Season". Press release. Southern Professional Hockey League. June 13, 2011. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Van Tuyl, Chris (13 June 2011). "Mississippi RiverKings announce change to Southern Professional Hockey League". Memphis Commercial Appeal. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
- Pope, Thomas (May 16, 2013). "Two Illinois teams join SPHL; Augusta out next season". The Fayetteville Observer. Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- "Shannon Szabados becomes first female goalie to win in Southern Professional Hockey League". NHL.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Mississippi Riverkings suspend operations for 2018-19 season, will seek new ownership". Commercial Appeal. May 24, 2018.
- "SPHL announces changes for 2020-2021 season". SPHL. October 6, 2020.
- "SPHL Expanding to Danville, IL for 2021-2022 Season". OurSports Central. March 10, 2021.
- "Pelham council approves ice arena lease for professional hockey team". WBRC. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
- Walsh, Lauren. "Former Birmingham Bulls owner sets sights on Pelham for professional hockey team". ABC 33/40. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
- Lee, David (May 14, 2013). "Augusta RiverHawks won't play next season". The Augusta Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 8, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- "SPHL Approves RiverHawks' Move To Macon, GA For 2015–2016 Season". The SPHL. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- "Cottonmouths to suspend operations for next season". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. May 3, 2017.
- "Florida Seals cease operations". Press release. January 5, 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- Gates, Nick (June 21, 2009). "Murray liking SPHL expansion". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- "SPHL adding Quad City for 2018-2019 season". SPHL. May 23, 2018.
- "Surge Hockey Operations to Suspend Indefinitely". Press release. May 2, 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- "Renegades Officially Done". Press release. May 2, 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- "Cyclones To Cease Operations". Press release. March 24, 2009. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- "History of the SPHL". SPHL.com. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- "MAYHEM SECURE REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP WITH WIN OVER FLYERS". Macon Mayhem. April 17, 2021.