When one thinks about the sport of hockey the mid-south region of the United States isn’t the first area that comes to mind. However, it’s a combination that’s been tried time and time again in the city of Louisville.
Much to the surprise for the football/basketball obsessed city, the town has had its share of pro-hockey teams.
Starting in 1948, when the Louisville Blades called the Louisville Gardens home. In the two years of the Blades existence they had solid showings in two upstart leagues, the International Hockey League and the United States Hockey League.
Despite lasting only two seasons it wasn’t long before area sports officials tried again with the Louisville Shooting Stars in 1953, again housed in the Gardens; the Stars joined back up with the International Hockey League. A similar fate was to be for the new team though lasting only one season in the league.
After two failed attempts the local hockey conglomerates took some time to reconsider their business method, trying again two years later with the Louisville Rebels. The Rebels had a slightly longer run debuting in the Gardens in 1957, but moving to Freedom Hall in the later games, despite a change in scenery though the team was forced to disband in 1960.
After three failed hockey teams in the Derby City the sport left the city in a professional sense for several decades.
That is until the semi-pro East Coast Hockey League came looking for teams in 1990. Louisville responded with the Louisville Icehawks, the first hockey team to be housed in Broadbent Arena. The Icehawks became a farm team for the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the team moving to Jacksonville, Florida in 1995.
But, there was little time before Louisville got another team, in fact it was that same year when the Louisville River Frogs moved in, during a very successful tenure. But one that ended when like the Hawks before them, the Frogs moved to Florida- this time Miami.
The following year in 1995, the Louisville Panthers of the American Hockey League came calling, returning a hockey team back to Freedom Hall. The Panthers, who acted as a farm team for the Florida Panthers were actually very successful during their time in the ‘ville, that is until 2001 when the Panthers disbanded. Currently the team is known as the Texas Stars and are based in the Austin, Texas area.
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