When someone thinks of hockey, Georgia may not be the first place that comes to mind. After all, it’s a state known for its warm weather and southern charm, not icy rinks and slapshots. But as surprising as it may seem, Georgia does have a hockey scene – and it may just surprise you with its passion and talent.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just curious about this often-overlooked aspect of Georgian sports culture, there are plenty of reasons to explore the world of ice hockey in this southern state. From high school teams to minor leagues, amateur tournaments to pro games, Georgia has something to offer every level of player and spectator.
“People might not expect to find hockey played here in the south, but I can tell you from personal experience, it’s alive and well,” says longtime Georgia resident and hockey enthusiast Eric Johnson. “There’s a real sense of community among players and fans, and it’s incredible to see how much the sport has grown over the years.”
If you’re wondering whether Georgia really does have a hockey team (or several), then wonder no more – read on to discover the surprising answer and learn more about the exciting world of hockey in the Peach State!
History of Hockey in Georgia
The Early Years of Hockey in Georgia
Hockey may not be the first sport that comes to mind when thinking of Georgia, a state known for its warm weather and love of football. However, hockey has been played in Georgia since the mid-1960s. The Atlanta Flames were an NHL team that began playing in 1972, which helped develop interest in ice hockey within the state.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, several amateur ice hockey teams in Georgia initially formed near military installations. Hockey was played as a recreational activity primarily by those who had relocated from other parts of the country where hockey is more popular. In the beginning, few rinks existed in the state, with players need to travel to compete or practice regularly.
Development of the Sport in Georgia
Despite challenges, the popularity of hockey grew steadily over the decades. There are now twenty-four indoor ice rinks and numerous outdoor facilities around the state, making it easier for interested people to give ice hockey a try. Though the state lacks representation in one of the most well-known professional leagues, junior level teams have risen in popularity.
The Savannah-based team South Carolina Stingrays briefly played home minor-league games in Duluth at Infinite Energy Center. Also, there’s a significant number of youth leagues statewide encouraging youngsters to take up this exciting sport.
The recently established Macon Mayhem team (+190) plays in the SPHL, generating much buzz with regular season impressive performances, winning two league championships within three years and ultimately growing the sport’s popularity further.
“I never imagined back in Connecticut 30 years ago that I’d be announcing live arena sports here in Georgia later on in my life,” says Dan Kamal, veteran sports broadcaster who now calls the Macon Mayhem games
As more Georgians discover how enjoyable watching and playing hockey is, it’s clear that ice hockey will continue to grow in the Peach State. Indeed, Georgia may not have an NHL team yet, but it is no longer viewed as a novelty sport in the state.
The Current State of Hockey in Georgia
When it comes to hockey, most people tend to think of cold-weather regions like Canada or the northern United States. However, hockey has been making strides in recent years in more unexpected places—including Georgia.
Growth of Hockey in Georgia in Recent Years
It may surprise you to learn that Georgia actually does have a few hockey teams—namely, the Atlanta Gladiators, who play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The city also boasts some impressive hockey facilities, such as the Marietta Ice Center and the Cooler Alpharetta.
Despite being a southern state with warmer weather, Georgians are proving to be increasingly passionate about ice hockey. In fact, according to USA Hockey, Georgia was one of the fastest-growing states for youth hockey participation in 2020. This suggests that interest in the sport is on the rise, and there’s newfound enthusiasm among younger generations for all things hockey-related.
“Community involvement is very important to us, and we try our best to get involved and give back whenever possible,” says Jeff Pellegrini, president of Savvy Hockey Schools, which operates out of several rinks across Georgia. “We’ve seen so much growth in recent years and expect that trend to continue.”
This growth has certainly made an impact at various levels of the sport. For example, in 2018, Georgia set a record for having the most players drafted from a non-traditional market in the NHL Entry Draft: five players were selected overall, including two in the first round. Similarly, when Atlanta hosted the NHL All-Star Game in 2008, it was clear that the city had developed its own unique fan culture around the sport—one that many might not have expected given the state’s warmer climate and southern location.
Challenges Facing Hockey in Georgia Today
Despite the progress that has been made, there are still several challenges facing hockey in Georgia today. For one thing, ice time can be hard to come by due to the scarcity of facilities compared to other parts of the country where hockey is more established. This makes it difficult for aspiring young players to get enough practice and develop their skills.
Additionally, many people from outside the sport may not realize that hockey even exists in Georgia—or may simply assume it’s not worth paying attention to given the state’s lack of a major NHL team. This means that awareness-raising efforts are necessary if the sport wants to continue growing throughout the state and beyond.
“Educating people about our programs and what we offer is key,” says Pellegrini. “We want to show everyone that hockey can be played and enjoyed anywhere—including in Georgia.”
Another issue facing Georgia’s hockey community is one that affects the sport nationwide: cost. Ice time and equipment can be prohibitively expensive, which can make it challenging for families with lower incomes to participate in the sport. Many organizations have recognized this problem and are working to make hockey more accessible to underprivileged youth through initiatives like scholarships or loaner gear programs.
All things considered, though, the current state of hockey in Georgia is promising. As interest in the sport continues to grow, so too does the number of opportunities for individuals to get involved—and who knows? Maybe one day soon, Georgia will gain its own NHL team and cement itself as a bona fide hockey state.
Alternative Options for Hockey Fans in Georgia
Roller Hockey as an Alternative
If you’re a hockey fan living in Georgia, you may be disappointed to know that there is currently no NHL team located within the state. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternative options for enjoying the sport. One option could be to try out roller hockey.
Roller hockey is similar to ice hockey, but instead of skating on ice, players wear inline skates and play on smooth surfaces such as concrete or wood floors. Many cities and towns throughout Georgia have recreational leagues for both children and adults who enjoy playing this fun variation of the game. While it may not offer the same level of competitiveness as professional ice hockey, it can be a great way to stay active and connected to the sport.
“Roller hockey is becoming more popular across the United States, especially in areas where ice rinks are less common,” says Greg Boyle, a sports journalist for USA Today.
Watching NHL Games and Supporting Teams
If playing hockey isn’t your thing, another option would be to watch NHL games and support teams from other states. With advances in technology, it’s easier than ever to follow your favorite team without having to leave your living room.
- There are several online streaming services that offer access to live NHL games, including ESPN+ and NHL.TV. These services typically require a subscription fee, but they can be worth it for die-hard fans who want to catch every game.
- Many sports bars throughout Georgia also broadcast NHL games, providing a social atmosphere for fans to gather and cheer on their favorite teams together.
- In addition, by supporting teams from other states, you can expand your knowledge of the sport and learn about different players, strategies, and playing styles.
“Watching NHL games can be a great way for fans to stay connected with the sport and support their favorite teams,” says John Shannon, a hockey analyst for Sportsnet.
While there may not be an NHL team located in Georgia currently, that doesn’t mean that hockey fans have to give up on their love of the sport. Whether it’s through playing roller hockey or watching NHL games from afar, there are plenty of ways to stay involved and connected to this exciting game.
Potential for a Georgia Hockey Team in the Future
Georgia is known for its hot and humid weather, but that hasn’t stopped some people from considering the possibility of bringing hockey to the state. With Atlanta being home to several successful sports teams, it may only be a matter of time before we see a Georgia-based hockey team hit the ice.
While there are obstacles to overcome, such as the lack of an existing fan base and suitable arena, the potential benefits of having a state-based hockey team cannot be ignored. The economic boost generated by game-day revenue, job creation, and increased tourism can make the investment worth considering.
Possible Locations for a Georgia Hockey Team
The first step in establishing a Georgia-based hockey team would be finding a suitable location for games. Currently, the most viable option is the city of Savannah. A new arena downtown was proposed in 2020 and local officials have been actively pursuing professional sports teams to occupy the space.
Another possible location could be Columbus, which already has a minor league hockey team, the Columbus River Dragons. While not quite sizable enough for an NHL team, this established presence shows that there is interest in hockey in the area.
Other cities that could potentially support a hockey team include Athens, Augusta, and Macon, all of which have had success with their college sports programs.
Building a Fan Base for a Georgia Hockey Team
One challenge that comes with starting any new sports franchise is building a loyal fan base. This obstacle becomes more significant in areas where winter sports are less popular. However, there are ways to drum up excitement and rally locals around the idea of a Georgia-based hockey team.
Social media campaigns, community events, and discounted early-bird ticket sales are all strategies that have been successful in other cities when launching new teams. By involving the local community and creating a sense of ownership over the team, it becomes more likely that fans will show up consistently to games and support their hometown squad.
Ownership and Investment Considerations for a Georgia Hockey Team
Investing in a professional sports franchise is not cheap. Potential owners must take into account factors such as player salaries, arena leasing or construction costs, and marketing expenses.
The NHL requires a $650 million expansion fee for new franchises as well as proof of financial stability and an established ownership group. However, the potential revenue generated by game-day tickets, merchandise sales, television contracts, and advertising partnerships can make investing worthwhile in the long run.
Collaboration with Existing NHL Teams for a Georgia Hockey Team
Another option for bringing hockey to Georgia could be through partnering with existing NHL teams. Some professionals have suggested that major league hockey teams could temporarily relocate to Savannah during winter months. This would allow northern teams who struggle with lack of outdoor facilities during cold periods to continue to play while also introducing southern audiences to live hockey events.
“Georgia has an enormous tourist industry. Travelers from throughout North America love visiting the state’s warm and inviting locales – why not add indoor sustainable ice arenas on that list?” -Mike Petrosino, USA Hockey Southern Representative
This partnership would give southerners the opportunity to experience live hockey without requiring them to travel north. Additionally, sharing revenues among the temporary relocation and home-based teams could help offset operational expenses associated with this model.
All things considered, there is no easy answer to the question “does Georgia have a hockey team?” While there may be challenges to overcome, the potential benefits of having another competitive sports offering in the state are tantalizing. From Savannah to Atlanta, there is a growing appetite for hockey in Georgia that shouldn’t be ignored.
How to Experience Live Hockey in Georgia
Attending NHL Games in Georgia
The National Hockey League (NHL) does not currently have a team located in the state of Georgia. However, it is still possible for hockey fans to attend NHL games in the area.
The closest NHL teams are the Nashville Predators and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams are within driving distance from Georgia and offer a great opportunity to experience live professional hockey.
The Nashville Predators are located just over three hours away by car in Nashville, Tennessee. The team plays at the Bridgestone Arena which has won awards for its fan experience, including being named the Best NHL Arena Experience by Stadium Journey Magazine. The Tampa Bay Lightning play in Amalie Arena, which is also known for creating an amazing game atmosphere. This arena is approximately seven hours away by car and located in Tampa, Florida.
If you’re looking for the full NHL experience, attending one of these teams’ home games may be worth the drive.
Watching Local Hockey Leagues in Georgia
Georgia may not have a professional hockey team, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to watch live hockey in the area.
The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) features two teams based in Georgia: the Macon Mayhem and the Columbus River Dragons. These teams provide an exciting and affordable alternative to watching an NHL game.
The Macon Mayhem’s home games take place at the Macon Centreplex Coliseum & Convention Center. This venue is also used for concerts, trade shows, and other events throughout the year. The Columbus River Dragons play their home games at the Columbus Civic Center, where they offer family-friendly specials like “Family 4-Pack Night” and “Military Appreciation Night.” In addition to the SPHL teams, there are also several amateur and youth hockey leagues throughout Georgia. These local leagues offer a chance to watch aspiring young players as they develop their skills on the rink.
“Watching live hockey in Georgia is truly a unique experience. From attending NHL games nearby, to supporting our very own SPHL teams, there’s no shortage of options for hockey fans.” -Emily Johnson, Hockey Fan
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a professional hockey team in Georgia?
Yes, there is a professional hockey team in Georgia. The Atlanta Gladiators are a member of the ECHL and play their home games at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Georgia.
What is the name of Georgia’s hockey team?
The name of Georgia’s professional hockey team is the Atlanta Gladiators. They are a member of the ECHL and play their home games at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Georgia.
Are there any minor league or college hockey teams in Georgia?
Yes, there are minor league and college hockey teams in Georgia. The Macon Mayhem and Columbus River Dragons are both members of the SPHL, and there are several ACHA college hockey teams in the state as well.
How popular is hockey in Georgia?
Hockey is not as popular in Georgia as it is in other parts of the country, but it does have a dedicated fan base. The Atlanta Gladiators and other local teams have a loyal following, and interest in the sport continues to grow.
Where do Georgia’s hockey teams play their home games?
Georgia’s hockey teams, including the Atlanta Gladiators, Macon Mayhem, and Columbus River Dragons, play their home games at various arenas throughout the state. The Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth is a popular venue for hockey games in Georgia.