Coralville officially lands professional hockey team

The ECHL expansion franchise will play at the new Xtream Arena.


Shivansh Ahuja

The main floor is seen during Xtream Arena’s opening media tour in Coralville on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

The wait for professional ice hockey is finally over for fans in Eastern Iowa.

After much speculation and anticipation, an announcement was made Thursday that a minor league ECHL expansion franchise will call the new Xtream Arena home. The currently unnamed and unaffiliated squad hopes to hit the ice at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa, for 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,” Coralville Mayor John Lundell said in a release. “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 a non-profit organization that oversees the arena, which seats 5,100 fans for hockey.

Deacon Sports and Entertainment of Canada will own the new ECHL franchise in Coralville. The sides have a multi-year agreement to use the arena.

The group already owns the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers.

“ArenaCo and the City of Coralville have demonstrated a strong desire for professional hockey in Coralville,” Deacon Sports and Entertainment Chairman Dean MacDonald said in a release. “We are fortunate to have completed a deal to bring a team to this thriving community. 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 ingraining ourselves in the Coralville community.”

The ECHL was referred to as the East Coast Hockey League until 2003 when the league decided to just go by ECHL.. The league was established in 1988, and is currently composed of 26 teams – not counting the new franchise in Coralville.

Typically, the ECHL plays a 72-game regular season, followed by a sixteen-team postseason. All playoff matchups are a best-of-seven series format. Whether the playoff format gets revised with the addition of the Coralville franchise remains to be seen.

The “Double A” ECHL has teams in both the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S., teams can be found as far south as Texas and Florida and as far west as Idaho. In Canada, teams can be found as far east as Newfoundland.

According to the ECHL, 676 of its players have made a National Hockey League (NHL) roster across the ECHL’s 32-year history.

It is unclear what NHL club the ECHL Coralville franchise will be affiliated with. According to The Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Minnesota Wild are the obvious choice because of their close proximity to Coralville and reportedly expiring contract with their current ECHL affiliate, the Allen Americans – located in Allen, Texas. The Kansas City Mavericks are the closest ECHL team to Coralville.

“We are excited to work with Dean and the team at DSE to add professional hockey to our lineup at Xtream Arena,” arena and fieldhouse general manager Jack Ligon said in a release. “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.”

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