Southern Professional Hockey League
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2021-22 SPHL season
Southern Professional Hockey League logo.svg
SportIce hockey
CommissionerDoug Price[1]
No. of teams11
CountryUnited States
Most recent
Peoria Rivermen
Most titlesKnoxville Ice Bears and Pensacola Ice Flyers (4 each)

The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) is a professional ice hockey independent minor 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.

Following the 2021-22 season, the Peoria Rivermen are the reigning President's Cup champions. As of 2022, the Knoxville Ice Bears are the most successful team in SPHL history, having won five William B. Coffey Trophies as the regular season champions and four President's Cup playoff championships. The Peoria Rivermen have also won four William B. Coffey Trophies, while Pensacola has also won four President's Cups.


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,[2][3][4] Lafayette, Louisiana[5] and Pensacola, Florida.[6][7] In 2010, the league added an expansion team in Augusta, Georgia, another former long time ECHL market.[8] For the 2011–12 season, the league added two-time Central Hockey League champions, the Mississippi RiverKings.[9][10] 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.[11] 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.[12] In that same game Erin Blair and Katie Guay became the first female officials to referee an SPHL game.[12]

At the end of the 2015–16 season, the Louisiana IceGators announced a one-year leave of absence for renovations to their arena but never returned. The IceGators' franchise was sold and reactivated as the Quad City Storm in 2018. Then in 2016, the dormant Mississippi Surge franchise was relocated to Southwest Virginia to become the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. One of the inaugural SPHL teams, the Columbus Cottonmouths, suspended operations in 2017 after failing to find a buyer while an expansion team called the Birmingham Bulls were accepted into the league as the tenth team. Following the 2017–18 season, the Mississippi RiverKings suspended operations while the league searched for new owners.[13] With the acceptance of the Quad City Storm, the league was able to remain at ten teams for the 2018–19 season.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019–20 season was curtailed and no champion was named. The following season, the league announced it would only play with five of the ten member teams due to pandemic-related capacity restrictions barring fans from attending games.[14] During the season, the league approved of the Vermilion County Bobcats as a 2021–22 expansion team based in Danville, Illinois.[15]


2021–22 members

Team City Arena Capacity Founded Joined Head coach
Birmingham Bulls[16][17] Pelham, Alabama Pelham Civic Center 4,100 2017 Craig Simchuk
Evansville Thunderbolts Evansville, Indiana Ford Center 9,000 2016 Jeff Bes
Fayetteville Marksmen Fayetteville, North Carolina Crown Coliseum 8,920 2002 2004 Cory Melkert
Huntsville Havoc Huntsville, Alabama Von Braun Center 6,037 2004 Glenn Detulleo
Knoxville Ice Bears Knoxville, Tennessee Knoxville Civic Coliseum 5,937 2002 2004 Brent Clarke
Macon Mayhem Macon, Georgia Macon Coliseum 7,182 2010[a] Vacant
Pensacola Ice Flyers Pensacola, Florida Pensacola Bay Center 8,150 2009 Rod Aldoff
Peoria Rivermen Peoria, Illinois Carver Arena 9,919 2013 Jean-Guy Trudel
Quad City Storm Moline, Illinois Vibrant Arena at The MARK 9,200 2009[a] Dave Pszenyczny
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs Roanoke, Virginia Berglund Center 8,672 2009[a] Dan Bremner
Vermilion County Bobcats Danville, Illinois David S. Palmer Arena 2,350 2021 David Ayres
  1. ^ a b c Relocated franchise


Vermilion County BobcatsBirmingham Bulls (SPHL)Evansville ThunderboltsPeoria Rivermen (SPHL)Bloomington Thunder (SPHL)Mississippi RiverKingsMacon MayhemAugusta RiverHawksPensacola Ice FlyersRoanoke Rail Yard DawgsMississippi SurgeQuad City StormLouisiana IceGators (SPHL)Richmond Renegades (SPHL)Twin City CyclonesPee Dee CyclonesFlorida SealsWinston-Salem Polar TwinsMacon TraxKnoxville Ice BearsJacksonville BarracudasHuntsville HavocFayetteville MarksmenFayetteville FireAntzColumbus CottonmouthsAsheville Aces

Defunct and relocated teams

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).


President's Cup

Awarded to the league playoff champion.

Season Winner Runner-up
2005 Columbus Cottonmouths Macon Trax
2006 Knoxville Ice Bears Orlando Seals
2007 Fayetteville FireAntz Jacksonville Barracudas
2008 Knoxville Ice Bears Jacksonville Barracudas
2009 Knoxville Ice Bears Fayetteville FireAntz
2010 Huntsville Havoc Mississippi Surge
2011 Mississippi Surge Augusta Riverhawks
2012 Columbus Cottonmouths Pensacola Ice Flyers
2013 Pensacola Ice Flyers Huntsville Havoc
2014 Pensacola Ice Flyers Columbus Cottonmouths
2015 Knoxville Ice Bears Mississippi RiverKings
2016 Pensacola Ice Flyers Peoria Rivermen
2017 Macon Mayhem Peoria Rivermen
2018 Huntsville Havoc Peoria Rivermen
2019 Huntsville Havoc Birmingham Bulls
2020 Not awarded due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2021 Pensacola Ice Flyers Macon Mayhem
2022 Peoria Rivermen Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs
Team Titles
Knoxville Ice Bears 4
Pensacola Ice Flyers 4
Huntsville Havoc 3
Columbus Cottonmouths 2
Fayetteville FireAntz 1
Macon Mayhem 1
Mississippi Surge 1
Peoria Rivermen 1

William B. Coffey Trophy

Originally known as the Commissioner's Cup, the regular season championship trophy was renamed in honor of league co-founder Bill Coffey during the 2007–08 season.[27]

Season Winner Title
2004–05 Knoxville Ice Bears 1
2005–06 Knoxville Ice Bears 2
2006–07 Columbus Cottonmouths 1
2007–08 Knoxville Ice Bears 3
2008–09 Knoxville Ice Bears 4
2009–10 Mississippi Surge 1
2010–11 Mississippi Surge 2
2011–12 Augusta RiverHawks 1
2012–13 Fayetteville FireAntz 1
2013–14 Pensacola Ice Flyers 1
2014–15 Peoria Rivermen 1
2015–16 Peoria Rivermen 2
2016–17 Macon Mayhem 1
2017–18 Peoria Rivermen 3
2018–19 Peoria Rivermen 4
2019–20 Not awarded due to season cancellation
2020–21 Macon Mayhem[28] 2
2021-22 Knoxville Ice Bears 5
Team Titles
Knoxville Ice Bears 5
Peoria Rivermen 4
Macon Mayhem 2
Mississippi Surge 2
Augusta Riverhawks 1
Columbus Cottonmouths 1
Fayetteville Fireantz 1
Pensacola Ice Flyers 1

See also


  1. ^ "Doug Price Appointed Commissioner of the Southern Professional Hockey League". January 17, 2019.
  2. ^ Giardina, A.J. (April 9, 2009). "Local investors may bring another hockey team to the coast". WLOX-TV. Archived from the original on 2009-04-12. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  3. ^ Press release (April 30, 2009). "Biloxi to join SPHL". Archived from the original on August 2, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
  4. ^ "Coast Hockey announces new team name". The Sun Herald. June 17, 2009. Retrieved June 17, 2009.[dead link]
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Blakeney, Jason (April 30, 2009). "Hockey's Back!". Pensacola News Journal. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Hockey Returning To Augusta, GA In 2010". February 3, 2010. Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ Van Tuyl, Chris (13 June 2011). "Mississippi RiverKings announce change to Southern Professional Hockey League". Memphis Commercial Appeal. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  11. ^ Pope, Thomas (May 16, 2013). "Two Illinois teams join SPHL; Augusta out next season". The Fayetteville Observer. Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Shannon Szabados becomes first female goalie to win in Southern Professional Hockey League". Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Mississippi Riverkings suspend operations for 2018-19 season, will seek new ownership". Commercial Appeal. May 24, 2018.
  14. ^ "SPHL announces changes for 2020-2021 season". SPHL. October 6, 2020.
  15. ^ "SPHL Expanding to Danville, IL for 2021-2022 Season". OurSports Central. March 10, 2021.
  16. ^ "Pelham council approves ice arena lease for professional hockey team". WBRC. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  17. ^ Walsh, Lauren. "Former Birmingham Bulls owner sets sights on Pelham for professional hockey team". ABC 33/40. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "SPHL Approves RiverHawks' Move To Macon, GA For 2015–2016 Season". The SPHL. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  20. ^ "Cottonmouths to suspend operations for next season". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. May 3, 2017.
  21. ^ "Florida Seals cease operations". Press release. January 5, 2007. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  22. ^ Gates, Nick (June 21, 2009). "Murray liking SPHL expansion". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  23. ^ "SPHL adding Quad City for 2018-2019 season". SPHL. May 23, 2018.
  24. ^ "Surge Hockey Operations to Suspend Indefinitely". Press release. May 2, 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Renegades Officially Done". Press release. May 2, 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  26. ^ "Cyclones To Cease Operations". Press release. March 24, 2009. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  27. ^ "History of the SPHL". Retrieved 16 March 2010.