Minor League Sports

Coralville announces it is getting a professional hockey team

Canadian group will own ECHL expansion franchise that will start in 2021-22

Xtream Arena in Coralville on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Xtream Arena in Coralville on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CORALVILLE — The Corridor is getting its first professional hockey team.

An announcement was made Thursday afternoon that an agreement has been made to bring a club in the minor league ECHL to the new Xtream Arena. The expansion team hopes to begin play in the 2021-22 season.

“The City of Coralville and ArenaCo have been pursuing a professional hockey team to call Xtream Arena home since the idea of this facility became a reality,” said Coralville Mayor John Lundell. “Hockey

is a growing sport in our community, and we’re pleased to be able to provide another entertainment

option for families in Eastern Iowa.”

ArenaCo is the non-profit entity with oversight of Xtream Arena, which will seat 5,100 fans for hockey and 6,600 for concerts. The owner of the expansion club is Deacon Sports and Entertainment of Canada, which already owns the Newfoundland Growlers in the ECHL.

The sides have a multi-year agreement to use the arena.

“ArenaCo and the City of Coralville have demonstrated a strong desire for professional hockey in

Coralville, and we are fortunate to have completed a deal to bring a team to this thriving community,”

said Deacon Sports and Entertainment Chairman Dean MacDonald. “Our goal is to hit the ground running to gain approval from the ECHL on league membership, finalize an affiliation agreement with an NHL team and begin engraining ourselves in the Coralville community.”

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The ECHL, formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League, was created in 1988-89 and has 26 teams for the 2020-21 season, which is scheduled to begin in early December. The league plays a 72-game regular season and is far flung geographically, with franchises ranging from Newfoundland and Ontario, to Florida and Texas, west to Idaho.

It is considered a “Double-A” level of hockey, with each club having an NHL affiliate that will provide some players. The league website said 676 ECHL players all time have made it to the National Hockey League.

The closest teams to Coralville are the Kansas City Mavericks (300 miles), Kalamazoo Wings (355 miles), Indianapolis Fuel (363 miles) and Fort Wayne Komets (370 miles). The Quad City Mallards were in the ECHL for four seasons from 2014 to 2018 but shut down operations for multiple reasons, including losing an estimated $4 million, starting a team in the Southern Professional Hockey League, which is considered a step below the ECHL.

The American Hockey League, of which the Iowa Wild in Des Moines are a member, is the highest level of minor league professional hockey. Many players from the ECHL will have stints with AHL clubs during a typical season.

There is no word who Coralville’s National Hockey League affiliate will be, though the Minnesota Wild are an obvious guess. The Wild would have a geographically perfect setup with Coralville, Des Moines and St. Paul.

Minnesota’s ECHL affiliate right now is in Allen, Texas, though that agreement is believed to expire at the end of this coming season.

“We’re excited to work with Dean and the team at DSE to add professional hockey to our lineup at

Xtream Arena,” stated Spectra’s Jack Ligon, General Manager of Xtream Arena and GreenState Family

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Fieldhouse. “We are committed to partnering with the team and looking forward to working with the

ECHL to provide a quality gameday experience for their fans and the Coralville community.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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