Coralville now has a minor league professional hockey team. Or rather, it will when the 2021-22 East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) season starts. The league officially approved an expansion team for Coralville on Tuesday.
The team, which doesn’t have a name yet, was one of two expansion teams approved on Wednesday. The other team, also unnamed, will be located in Trois-Rivières, a city in the Canadian province of Quebec. Both teams are owned by Deacon Sports and Entertainment, a company located in St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s easternmost province.
“We are thrilled to help bring professional hockey to Coralville and Trois-Rivières,” Dean MacDonald, chair of Deacon, said in a statement. “Residents in both markets have responded with incredible enthusiasm for the ECHL product and now that our membership is official, we are one step closer to dropping the puck in the fall.”
MacDonald called the approval of the expansion teams “a credit to our strong partnerships with both municipalities.”
A multi-year deal for Deacon to bring a minor league hockey team to Coralville’s new Xtream Arena was announced in September.
“The City of Coralville and ArenaCo [the nonprofit community development corporation created to be the owner and operator of the arena] 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 when the deal was announced last year.
MacDonald’s company already owned an ECHL team, the Newfoundland Growlers (the name refers to the Newfoundland breed of dogs).
“We have a great history of working with Dean’s ownership group and leadership team and look forward to bringing ECHL hockey to Trois-Rivieres and Coralville, making an impact as an asset to these communities,” ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said in a written statement on Tuesday.
All ECHL teams are affiliated with NHL teams. The Growlers are affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs. No affiliations have been established yet for the two new teams.
The unnamed Coralville franchise will be the first ECHL team in Iowa, and the first Iowa-adjacent team since the Quad City Mallards folded in 2008. It’s estimated that the Mallards, who played in Moline, lost approximately $4 million during the four seasons they existed. Moline now has another minor league hockey team, the Quad City Storm, who have played their home games at the TaxSlayer Center since 2018.
The Storm is in the Southern Professional Hockey League, which is considered a step below the ECHL, which in turn is considered a step below the American Hockey League, which includes Des Moines’ team, the Iowa Wild.
The two new teams bring the number of ECHL teams to 28. Other teams in the league include the Kansas City Mavericks, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, the Toledo Walleye and the Kalamazoo Wings.
Mayor Lundell said in a statement that ECHL approval of the new team “continues to build on the excitement and energy generated by the Xtream Arena here in Coralville. We look forward to a long-standing and successful partnership with Dean and his organization that will provide entertainment for our families, friends, and neighbors.”
According to the ECHL, “Additional updates regarding the Coralville ECHL Club and subsequent plans including team name, logo, ticket pricing etc. will be communicated at a later date.”