Columbus’ newest professional hockey team to be named River Dragons
Columbus’s newest professional hockey team now has a name — the River Dragons.
The announcement, the unveiling of the team’s logo and the introduction of front office staff was made Tuesday during an event at the Columbus Civic Center attended by fans and city officials.
“Professional hockey returns to Columbus, Georgia,” said City Manager Isaiah Hugley. “This is truly a great day in our city.”
The Columbus River Dragons will compete in the Federal Prospects Hockey League, a nine-team league with teams in the midwestern, southern and northeastern United States.
The team’s front office features a mix of new and familiar faces from the city’s former team, the Cottonmouths, that shut down in 2017.
Owners of the River Dragons are Jeffrey S. Croop and Art Shaver of Ignite Pro Hockey. The team’s president and general manager is Scott Brand. Brand formerly served as General Manager of the league’s Carolina Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds won the FPHL Commissioner’s Cup in the 2018-2019 season. Brand resigned from the Thunderbirds earlier this month to take another job, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
The River Dragons have yet to name a coach.
When speaking to the audience Tuesday, Brand said the team considered using the Cottonmouths name but the time didn’t feel right.
“The history is incredibly deep with the Cottonmouths,” he said. “We didn’t feel the time was right to revisit the Cottonmouths at this point. We do think that there might be something in the future that we can work out. We want to acknowledge the people who set this up.”
Jerome “Boom-Boom” Bechard, a former Cottonmouths player, coach and general manager, will serve as the team’s vice president of community relations.
“It is a really exciting moment,” Bechard said as he held back tears. “I’m proud to be involved with these guys.”
Brand, the team’s general manager, said the River Dragons would play a physical brand of hockey that “puts a lot of pucks in the net.” Games will be entertaining for the entire family, and the team will have to be involved in the community like the Cottonmouths were. A point of emphasis for the team will be involvement with youth hockey.
“We have to become a fiber to this community, the Snakes did that,” Brand said. “We have to figure out a way to ingrain ourselves in this community whether it be with the citizens or the Army base or whatever it may be. And yes, Alabama and Phenix City, we love you too, so come on across the bridge.”
The goal for the team, Brand said, is a championship.
“Give me a year to get used to everything,” he said. “We’ll win a cup in the next two years.”
Estimated single-game ticket prices range from $8 for the cheapest seats to $25 along the glass and close to the ice. Estimated season ticket prices range from $235 to $560, depending on where you want to sit. Those estimates were made assuming the team will play a 28-game season, and tickets may go on sale as soon as May 28, team officials said.
The season is expected to start the last week of October.
The Columbus Council voted in late April to enter into a five-year agreement that would bring hockey back to the city.
It will be the first time since 2017 that Columbus will have a hockey team after the Cottonmouths ceased operations. Cottonmouths owner Wanda Amos could not find a buyer for the long-running franchise.
An attempt to bring in another hockey franchise failed after the Cottonmouths shut their doors. New York City businessman Fidel Jenkins attempted to replace the Cottonmouths with the Columbus Burn in the Southern Professional Hockey League. However, Jenkins’ application was terminated by the league
The Cottonmouths had played in Columbus since 1996.
Other facts about the River Dragons:
▪ The team’s primary colors are white, black, sedona red and dark gray. Accent colors for the River Dragons are turquoise and a tan shade called “sonoran sand.”
▪ The River Dragons name might sound familiar. It was the name of an NBA developmental league team that played in Columbus from 2001 to 2005.
Twelve players were drafted by the River Dragons at during the FPHL’s expansion draft. They are:
▪ Shea Carey, Forward
▪ Thomas Devesvre, Defenseman
▪ Karl Drahorad, Defenseman
▪ Chase Fallis, Center
▪ Dustin Henning, Defenseman
▪ Matt Kadolph, Forward
▪ Onfrej Misovic, Defenseman
▪ Nick Niedert, Goalie
▪ Edgars Ozolins, Defenseman
▪ Jiri Pargac, Forward
▪ Jared Rutledge, Goalie
▪ Tim Santopaolo, Forward