Hard Hits: Jacksonville IceMen coming to town

IMG_0113Pro hockey is on its way to the River City after nearly a decade, with ice back on the floor at Veterans Memorial Arena beginning this fall.

“On behalf of Mayor Lenny Curry, we are happy to announce that Jacksonville will have a hockey team playing here beginning in October,” said City Chief of Staff Kerri Stewart, who was joined by team owner Ron Geary, team president Bob Ohrablo and ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna for the press conference.

For the past eight years the team has called Evansville, Indiana home. The move to Jax wasn’t personal, it was just time to move into greener pastures.

“I want to thank the people of Evansville for years of support,” said Geary. “As the quality of the team and league has grown, we want to grow with it. Evansville has a population of around 100 thousand, and Jacksonville is nearing one million. It was really a matter of size.”

Geary also emphasized the support for existing sports franchises around town, namely the Jaguars and, now, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp as an indication of how they expect to be received.

“The ECHL, and the Jacksonville IceMen, will offer top-notch entertainment with the fastest sport in the country—all at a reasonable price,” said ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna. “Our league has watched over 580 players move on to the NHL, and we anticipate entertaining over 4 million fans this season. This move is a great way to begin celebrating our thirtieth anniversary coming up next year.”IMG_0118

The IceMen will join the south division of the 28-team ECHL, facing opponents in Atlanta, Ft. Myers and Orlando, to name a few. The team kicks off their 36 game at-home schedule this October. Jacksonville has not had a hockey team since the Barracudas ceased operation in 2008.

Visit jacksonvilleicemen.com for more info.