Photo credit: thesphl.com
The Utica Comets have been turning to players with Southern Professional Hockey League experience as of late.
Everyone has heard of the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, even the ECHL, but until recently, not many have heard of the Southern Professional Hockey League – especially hockey fans in central New York.
In recent weeks, the Comets have experienced some unexpected holes in their lineup due to injuries and recalls to their parent NHL club, the New Jersey Devils. With their ECHL affiliate, the Adirondack Thunder, experiencing roster difficulties of their own, the Comets turned to the professional tryout (PTO) route to fill their roster. A PTO is basically a temporary contract that can become a standard contract if the signing team so desires.
The first PTO the Comets signed was goaltender Corbin Kaczperski. Shortly after he was released, the team brought in goaltender Bailey Brkin, defenseman Chris Lijdsman, and forward Peter MacArthur on PTO’s as well. Only Lijdsman would get into a game for Utica, but of the four players, three had played in the SPHL either this season or last season. None of them are with the Comets anymore, but it left a lot of fans asking themselves – just what the heck is the Southern Professional Hockey League?
Founded in 2004 out of the ashes of the South East Hockey League and the World Hockey Association 2, the SPHL is an “A” level professional hockey league. For comparison’s sake, it is below the “AA” level ECHL, which is considered a feeder league for the AHL. The SPHL functions as a one division league with eleven teams, those teams are:
- Huntsville Havoc
- Quad City Storm
- Knoxville Ice Bears
- Fayetteville Marksmen
- Pensecola Ice Flyers
- Perioa Rivermen
- Evansville Thunderbolts
- Birmingham Bulls
- Macon Mayhem
- Vermilion County Bobcats
- Roanoke Rail Yard Dogs
The Southern Professional Hockey League will play a fifty-six game regular season in 2021-22, with the regular-season champion being awarded the William B. Coffey Trophy. The top eight teams in the standings make the playoffs which consist of best of three series’s until the champion wins the Presidents Cup.
Fun facts about the Southern Professional Hockey League
- One SPHL player has made it to the NHL, and that was goaltender Scott Darling. Darling won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015.
- The Birmingham Bulls name was previously used for a professional hockey team name in the Alabama city. The original Birmingham Bulls were in the World Hockey Association from 1976-1979.
- The Perioa Rivermen name has also been previously used. The name has been used for teams in the IHL (now defunct), the AHL, and the ECHL. It was the AHL Peoria Rivermen franchise that was moved to Utica NY in 2013 to become the Utica Comets.
To learn more about the Southern Professional Hockey League, go to https://thesphl.com.