Southern Professional Hockey League
|Current season, competition or edition:
2017–18 SPHL season
|No. of teams||10|
|Most titles||Knoxville Ice Bears (4)|
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.
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, the Cajundome. However, in 2017 it was revealed the team had dissolved. One of the inaugural SPHL teams, the Columbus Cottonmouths, also suspended operations in 2017 after failing to find a buyer. An expansion team called the Birmingham Bulls were accepted into the league as the tenth team.
|Birmingham Bulls||Pelham, Alabama||Pelham Civic Center||3,500||2017||Jamey Hicks|
|Evansville Thunderbolts||Evansville, Indiana||Ford Center||9,000||2016||Jeff Pyle|
|Fayetteville Marksmen||Fayetteville, North Carolina||Crown Coliseum||8,920||2002||2004||Nick Mazzolini|
|Huntsville Havoc||Huntsville, Alabama||Von Braun Center||6,602||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*||Kevin Kerr|
|Mississippi RiverKings||Southaven, Mississippi||Landers Center||8,400||1992||2011||Derek Landmesser|
|Pensacola Ice Flyers||Pensacola, Florida||Pensacola Bay Center||8,150||2009||Jeff Bes|
|Peoria Rivermen||Peoria, Illinois||Carver Arena||9,919||1982||2013||Jean-Guy Trudel|
|Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs||Roanoke, Virginia||Berglund Center||8,642||2009*||Sam Ftorek|
* – Represents a franchise move.
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)
- 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 have since dissolved)
- Macon Trax (2004–05)
- 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.
|2005–06||Knoxville Ice Bears|
|2007–08||Knoxville Ice Bears|
|2008–09||Knoxville Ice Bears|
|2012–13||Pensacola Ice Flyers|
|2013–14||Pensacola Ice Flyers|
|2014–15||Knoxville Ice Bears|
|2015–16||Pensacola Ice Flyers|
William B. Coffey Trophy
- Giardina, A.J. (April 9, 2009). "Local investors may bring another hockey team to the coast". WLOX-TV. 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 14 June 2011. 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 May 19, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- "Shannon Szabados becomes first female goalie to win in Southern Professional Hockey League". NHL.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "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.
- "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.