Well, I can now say I’ve watched hockey games in two different leagues. Friday night I went to see the Knoxville Ice Bears (22-9-3, No.2 in SPHL) take on the Fayetteville FireAntz (11-21-3, No.9 in SPHL) in a Southern Professional Hockey League match. The SPHL consists of 9 Southern teams from Columbus (GA), Fayetteville (NC), Knoxville (TN), Huntsville (AL), Augusta (GA), Biloxi (MS), Southaven (Memphis), Lafayette (LA), and Pensacola (FL). Who knew there was so much hockey in the South?

The Ice Bears lost the game in Overtime 5-6, but it was still fun to watch a high scoring game for once. Just 4:30 into the game the Ice Bears had a 4 minute Power Play when a Fayetteville player was called on Sportsmanship and Slashing. Within the first 1:27 in the 2nd Period there were 5 goals made. Twice in the game the Ice Bears scored back to back goals within seconds of each other. And a player from Fayetteville got a hat trick (3 goals from one player in a game) within 2:20 of game time. To round out the 2nd two players picked a fight (one with an “8, 75 pound advantage). Gloves came off, punches were thrown, and both players were sent to the penalty box for 5. They just let em fight it out. Won’t see that in an NHL as often. We went into Overtime tied up at 5 and the FireAntz scored 0:17 in for the win. FireAntz were out shot 27-52. I’ve noticed the teams that shoot less, score more. Is that true in most games?

It was Pink in the Rink Night, supporting Komen for the Cure. Players wore pink from head to toe, and even had pink sticks to start the night.

The SPHL is not a developmental league like the ECHL and AHL. The rules differ some from what I’ve learned watching NHL games. Overtime is 3 on 3 and the shootout consists of 5 shots from each team. The Ice Bears have been in Knoxville since the league started in 2004 and in that time have won 3 Conference Championships and 4 Regular Season trophies. The crowd (4,500) is mostly college students, but I guess that makes sense being so close to campus. Best part it’s only $9 for this game versus $60 for a Predators game!

Look forward to more hockey during my time in Knoxville!