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RIP, CHL Ice

by Mike Wallin
April 14, 2004 - Central Hockey League (CHL) - Indianapolis Ice

During the summer of 1999, the Indianapolis Ice franchise fled the struggling IHL and joined the CHL. To most sports enthusiasts in Indianapolis, the departure of the IHL Ice to the CHL was a major step backwards for the professional game of hockey in the “Circle City.” Just five years later, the CHL Ice are no longer as the assets and Ice nickname has been sold by Horn Chen to Paul Skjodt.

While the changing in leagues from the IHL to the CHL was thought of as a negative move by many, a large contingent of central Indiana residents gave the CHL Ice a chance and ended up falling in love with their team. The Ice won the Miron Cup in their inaugural season and qualified for playoffs in all but one of their five seasons. Overall, they posted a respectable 166-136-30 record under Rod Davidson and Ken McRae.

For those that came out and supported the CHL Ice during the past five years, you will never be forgotten by the players that donned the Ice sweater. The Ice fans did support this team. In each of the past two seasons, the team averaged close to 5,000 fans a game in a city where the local media paid no attention to the team.

From the early response by the fans, the announcement has not gone over well. While the CHL was a lower level minor league with poor officiating and opponents from nowhere near Indianapolis, the fans took to the team. A passion developed quickly as the players and coaches were taken in by the Indianapolis hockey community in a much closer way than the city’s other professional sports teams.

Now, with the news of the sale, the fans lose out once again! Players like Bernie John, Ryan Aikia, Jason Baird, Brent Zelenewich and Jared Dumba will no longer skate onto the Pepsi Coliseum and skate for their loyal fans. Ken McRae will now have to move on to another city leaving only fond memories from those who got to know him as the bench boss of the Ice.

It truly is a sad day for Indianapolis Ice fans as well as the city of Indianapolis. The Ice players and coaches who arrived from all over North America, were taken in by the local community as one of their own and now they must move on. These guys were all of high character who had a passion for their sport, played for little money and treated everyone they met with only the utmost respect.

To the guys behind the scenes: Larry Linde, Brad Beery, Jason Burkman, Rob Lower, Kelly Ford, Jim Mirabello, Mike McLean, Ryan Cameron and so many others, thanks for all your efforts and great promotions. You guys made it all possible.

The team is gone, it’s over. They will not however be forgotten. So many memories in just five seasons! Who will ever forget: netminder Jamie Morris carrying the team to a championship, Yvan Corbin filling the net, Chris MacKenzie feeding the puck to Corbin, Ken “Cowboy” Boone dropping the gloves or Bernie John scoring so many huge goals.

Opponents like the hated Memphis RiverKings brought a fun rivalry for the Ice. Don Parsons, Curtis Voth, Doug Lawrence, Joe Burton and Rod Branch definitely were worth the price of admission.

Tonya Harding, Manute Bol, the King Team, Steven Kirkpatrick officially playing in goal, wow what fun these past five years have been.

It doesn’t seem fair does it? Rest in Peace CHL Ice, Rest in Peace.

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