Despite Lockout, Plenty Of Live Hockey On Tap For Floridians
Well, here we are once again, my friends.
I think we, as fans, figured that after losing a season to the last lockout, that there would be no way we’d have another work stoppage so soon but, here we are. As of 12:00 am this past Sunday morning, the National Hockey League, and NHL Players Association, had not come to a new collective bargaining agreement so we’re right back where we were in September 2004.
And while we’ve all been looking forward to piling into Saveology Iceplex to see how Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden fit into the team’s veteran roster this training camp, it looks like we could be waiting a while. Perhaps a long while. Thankfully, the NHL is not the only option for hockey if you can’t wait for the league and players to agree to see a game live. There is no American Hockey League affiliate and there is no system like the Canadian junior leagues but, the game’s growth here has given way to a variety of ways to draw you into a beautifully cold rink as the September, South Florida heat persists.
So, if you’re looking to see a game in person, here are some suggestions, no matter where you are in the Sunshine State.
East Coast Hockey League
In case you were too mired in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs to notice, a Florida-based hockey team won a hockey championship. The Florida Everblades captured the Kelly Cup by knocking off the Las Vegas Wranglers in the final series 4-1. The ‘Blades play their home games in Germain Arena in Estero, on the Gulf coast. If you’re in the southeast part of the state, it’s probably a 2-3 hour drive over, depending on where you are exactly but, many of their home games are on Friday/Saturday nights so you can make a day or weekend out of it. And you may be seeing some of these players in the future as the Everblades are the ECHL affiliate for Panther’s division rivals Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. You can check out the team website here and if you do make the trip, Swamphockey.com has put together this handy little guide to the team and the area.
Ironically, the Everblades will begin their Cup defense against another option if you’re in the Orlando area, the resurrected (in name only) Orlando Solar Bears. The original Solar Bears played in the International Hockey League and disappeared when that league closed up shop in 2001. The name, and their gaudy colors, will get a new lease on life in the ECHL beginning this season and will share the Amway Center with the NBA’s Orlando Magic. In May, it was announced they’ll be the league affiliate for the Minnesota Wild. You can find their team site here. Try not to stare directly at the colors for too long, lest your retinas burn.
*pronounced “cawledge hawkey”
While it’s not the scale of Hockey East or the WCHA, some of Florida’s university have developed their own hockey programs. All play in division three of the American Collegiate Hockey Association. So, if you’re a student heading off to school in Gainesville, Orlando, Tallahassee or elsewhere in the state or you’re a hockey fan living there, there’s a team on-campus that would love to have you in the stands when they play. Here’s a list of Florida schools that have a hockey team. Note: I could only find information on men’s teams. If you have info on women’s teams, leave it in the comments so I can edit this post with that. Click on the school’s name for a link to their webpage.
Florida Atlantic University: For those the Panther fan in the Southeast, this one is a no-brainer. The Owls play their home games in Coral Springs at the Iceplex and are coached by former Panthers enforcer Peter Worrell. They open their season 9/21 in Daytona against Embry Riddle before coming home to face University of South Florida on 9/28. For more coverage, check out Sunshine State Hockey, as they’ll be the temporary home on the web for the Owls with Marc Springston serving as writer and social media manager.
University of Miami: The Hurricanes are entering into their second season on the ice after making the switch to ice from roller hockey. It’ll be hard to match the success of year one as they compiled a 17-0 record. They open their season at home on 9/21 against Life University at Kendall Ice Area, where they’ll play all of home games.
Going away to college or just happen to live near a college town? Chances are your closer to live hockey than you think. The following universities have their hockey teams (click name for links to their home page): University of Florida (Go Gators!), Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, and University of Tampa, Florida Gulf Coast University and University of North Florida.
None of the above programs have the history and tradition of Boston University or University of Minnesota but, if you’re near, they could really use your support. And even better, it won’t cost you and arm and a leg to go see in person and, I can guarantee they’ll be more than appreciative of you being there. If you can, buy a jersey. Can’t afford that, buy a t-shirt, if you can. Besides, you can never have too much hockey swag, right? Right now, hockey is still considered ‘club’ level sports but with some support, an ACC or SEC conference of college hockey participating at the NCAA level might not be so far off.
And if none of those options work, I do have one last suggestion: Get some gear and learn to play yourself! You think watching this game is fun? Wait until you put on your own gear and skates and play it! You’re never too old to learn.
Thanks for reading, this, my first post on Panther Parkway! I miss other live hockey? Let me know in the comments.
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