UCF men’s soccer opens their NCAA run tonight when they host Florida Gulf Coast. Game time is 7pm. Admission is $5. Free parking in Lot F behind UCF Arena. The winner will play at USF on Sunday.
UCF women’s soccer plays at Florida in the second round tomorrow night at 7pm.
In a rare bit of off-the-board news, hockey in Orlando is coming out of hibernation.
ECHL and the City of Orlando announced today that the Orlando Solar Bears will return in 2012.
ECHL announced they had awarded Orlando an expansion franchise a couple weeks ago after an ownership group secured a lease agreement at the Amway Center. But preparations for their arrival began long before the agreements were signed.
In September, ECHL filed to register the Solar Bears identity at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That trademark was previously owned by RDV Sports after the IHL folded, but lapsed in 2008. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Rich DeVos gave his blessing for using the team name.
ECHL is the third tier of hockey competition in North America. They typically market as a “AA” league, and have affiliations with NHL teams as well as the American Hockey League, which is “AAA”. Originally the “East Coast Hockey League”, it has since gone nationwide, with teams as far-flung as Anchorage, Alaska.
There are teams in the league that will be familiar to fans of the old Solar Bears. Our former rivals now in the ECHL are the Utah Grizzlies, the Kalamazoo Wings (formerly the Michigan K-Wings) and the Cincinnati Cyclones. There is also potential for local rivalry. One of the teams in the ECHL is the Florida Everblades, based in Estero, south of Fort Myers and home of Florida Gulf Coast University.
There’s no immediate word on affiliations. The Tampa Bay Lightning are already affiliated with the Everblades. But the Florida Panthers, who play outside Fort Lauderdale in Sunrise, are affiliated with the Cincinnati Cyclones at the AA level. They share this with the Nashville Predators, so it’s altogether possible that they could switch their ECHL affiliation to us.
I won’t venture to guess who we would affiliate with in the AHL, but there are three teams that lack ECHL affiliation, including the Eastern Conference’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’s also possible that a team that shares an ECHL team with another AHL team could jump. One of these: the Grand Rapids Griffins, who are owned by Rich DeVos. But this is all pure speculation.