On Wednesday at an Amway Center press conference, an announcement was made that was music to hockey fans ears in The City Beautiful. A host of dignitaries announced that the ECHL expansion franchise, set to begin play next October, would take the name tied to hockey in the city, the Orlando Solar Bears.
The Solar Bears were a popular fixture at the old Amway Arena from 1995-2001, when they played in the now-defunct IFL. In the league’s final year, the team walked away with the Turner Cup.
A crowd of around 200 media members and fans welcomed this exciting revelation inside of Jernigan’s Restaurant.
“The Orlando Solar Bears are coming out of hibernation,” said Bob Ohrablo, Chief Operating Officer/Managing Partner. “We are honored to bring the Solar Bears back to Orlando.”
According to the ownership group, there has been large traffic and inquiries through their website orlandoprohockeyisback.com. Over 700 season ticket information requests have been processed through the site.
Expectations are to have between five to seven thousand fans a game in year one and possibly more in subsequent seasons.
The team those fans will get to see is still up in the air. The ECHL is basically hockey’s version of Double-A baseball and the franchises will partner with one or two NHL teams that will feed Orlando with prospects.
“We’ll find an affiliate, an NHL affiliate, one or two affiliates and we’ll be provided players,” said Ohrablo. “One of the things that really attracted us to the ECHL is that there are only two leagues the NHL really works with in terms of supplying players. We’ll receive a lot of very good young prospects from National Hockey League teams and populate the balance of the roster with good free agents.
With Martins and several Magic staffers in attendance at the presser, it seems there will be a good working relationship between Amway’s two sports tenants. Magic owner, Rich DeVos, owned the former incarnation of the Solar Bears and it is assumed he signed off on allowing the new group to use the old moniker.
In the coming weeks and months, updates to the logo and jerseys in addition to the hiring of a coaching staff will take place.