Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Winter Sport Hot in South

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Winter Sport Hot in South

Article excerpt

In the bayous of southern Louisiana, sporting goods stores

just can't seem to keep enough ice skates and hockey sticks in


In Mobile, Ala., where many local citizens still believe Bear

Bryant is rooming with Elvis somewhere in South America,

hundreds of disappointed kids are turned away when an entire

youth hockey league fills up in a matter of minutes.

And in Tallahassee, where Florida State University traditionally

monopolizes the sporting dollar, a minor-league hockey franchise

has outdrawn the Seminoles basketball team for the second

consecutive season.

Hockey in the South, if you'll pardon the bad pun, is kicking

ice. Minor pucks mean major bucks way down yonder in the paw-paw


"Never in my wildest dreams did I envision this," says East

Coast Hockey League Commissioner Patrick Kelly. "We're all

amazed at what's happening. The South is going crazy over

minor-league hockey."


In sports-finicky Jacksonville, where the ECHL Lizard Kings are

in their first season fans are far from going crazy.

The local Lizard Kings, who play host to the phenomenally

successful Louisiana IceGators tonight in the Coliseum, are

next-to-last in attendance (2,402 per game) among the 21 ECHL

franchises. Although crowds have increased some since the end of

football season, Kelly admits the league is "concerned" about

the Jacksonville franchise.

"We weren't naive enough to think we were going to lead the

league in attendance our first year," Lizard Kings President

Larry Lane says. "We knew, with the Jaguars starting up at the

same time we did, it would be a building process. Considering

the history of other teams that have tried to make it here,

we're very satisfied with our first season. …

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