Pensacola, Florida
Monday September 16th 2019


Hometown Hockey Anniversary

By Duwayne Escobedo

Twenty years later, Chad Quenneville still fondly recalls playing for the Pensacola Ice Pilots during its first three seasons.

The team captain during those early seasons, beginning in 1996, said his best memories are of the Pensacola fans. So what, that the center led the team with 43 goals in the then-Ice Pilots first season and made playoff appearances the first two seasons, including a loss in the East Coast Hockey League finals in 1997-1998 season?

“The city embraced us those first three years,” said Quenneville, who has made Pensacola his home. “It was the best place to play on the East Coast. It was great to be a hockey player here back then.”

Quenneville, who’s from South Hadley, Mass., recalls regularly playing in front of 8,000 rabid fans at The Hangar, as the team refers to the Pensacola Bay Center, which has a capacity of 8,150.

Quenneville, a financial advisor who now coaches Pensacola youth hockey, is one of the former Ice Pilots who plans to attend the current Ice Flyers 20th Anniversary of Pensacola Hockey celebration during the team’s final home stand Friday-Sunday, April 1-3. The anniversary weekend includes games Friday and Saturday against the Huntsville Havoc, jersey auctions, autograph and photo sessions and wraps up with a golf tournament at Stonebrook Golf Club on Sunday.

Other former Ice Pilots joining Quenneville during the weekend celebration are Hugo Belanger, Shane Calder, Kelly Hultgren, Scott Malone and Andrew Rodgers.

Former Ice Flyers returning for the festivities include Dan Buccella, Joe Bueltel, Jordan Chong, Ross MacKinnon and Tyler Soehner.

Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris said it’s the success of those early Pensacola hockey teams that Quenneville played on that have led to the current team’s success.

The Flyers won the city’s first-ever professional sports championship in 2013 and followed that up with a second Southern Professional Hockey League President’s Cup in 2014. The Flyers are amid qualifying for their seventh consecutive SPHL playoff appearance this year.

“Hockey started off on the right foot with those first couple of teams,” Harris said. “They really helped to ingrain professional hockey in Pensacola.”

The team didn’t play during the 2008–2009 season after the Ice Pilots finished dead last for three consecutive years. However, former NHL player Tim Kerr reestablished the hockey team as the Pensacola Ice Flyers the following season.

Ice Flyers coach Rod Aldoff expects to have a flood of memories during the anniversary weekend as a former Ice Pilots player during his 15-year professional hockey career. Plus, he is now in his third season as the Ice Flyers’ coach. Aldoff became the winningest coach in Flyers’ history in January.

“All the teams in the South have really drawn well,” Aldoff said. “I’ve got nothing but great memories here in Pensacola. The city has had some great teams, and Pensacola has always had great fan support.”
Harris said he can’t wait to see the fans’ reactions during the celebration.

“One of my favorite things to do is to watch thousands of faces thoroughly enjoy hockey here,” he said. “There will be a lot of nostalgia from a lot of great teams and players here flowing through everyone’s minds. We’re grateful that Pensacola has adopted us into their lives.”

Friday-Saturday, April 1-2: Prior to both games with the Huntsville (Ala.) Havoc, the former players will be introduced and take part in the pre-game festivities. During the first intermission on both nights, the players will be on the ice and participate in special intermission contests.
Friday, April 1: Following the game, fans will be able to purchase at auction the authentic 20th Anniversary of Pensacola Hockey jerseys of former Ice Flyers and Ice Pilots players.
Saturday, April 2: Fans are invited to a pre-game “Party on the Plaza” on the west side of the Pensacola Bay Center. From 4:30-6:30 p.m. there will be a meet-and-greet and autograph session with the former players. After the game, there will be an auction of the jerseys worn by the Ice Flyers.
Sunday, April 3: Festivities wrap up with the 20th Anniversary Weekend Golf Tournament at Stonebrook Golf Club. The cost is $65 per golfer, and each foursome will be paired with a current Ice Flyers player. Former players will also attend the golf tournament to mingle with fans. To register, call the Ice Flyers at 466-3111.

WHAT: Home games, part of 20th Anniversary of Pensacola Hockey weekend
WHEN: 7:05 p.m. Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center, 201 E. Gregory St.