The last major hurdle for hockey’s return to Columbus, Georgia was cleared Tuesday night at a city council meeting, with the council unanimously approving, 10-0, a measure to allow a Federal Hockey League team to start play this fall.
The yet-to-be-named team will begin its lease on May 1, with the lease set for five years.
Also mentioned during the vote was the note that the team will host 30 home games in the Columbus Civic Center, which was then followed by Arena Director Jon Dorman saying that the new team will NOT be using the Cottonmouths name that had used by every previous Columbus team across three leagues. The new team’s name will be determined by a fan vote, according to Dorman.
In addition to the team lease passing, it was learned that the team owner is Jeff Croop, the father of current Carolina Carolina Thunderbirds player Jay Croop. Jeff is no stranger to owning hockey teams, previous owning a trio of teams in the old UHL, the Utica Blizzard who eventually moved to Winston-Salem and renamed the IceHawks, and later the Richmond RiverDogs.
The new FHL team marks hockey’s return to the Fountain City after the Columbus Cottonmouths, then of the SPHL, ceased operations after the 2017 season. Hockey nearly stayed in the city and the SPHL later that same year when a group attempted to place the Columbus Burn in the arena, but the application was ultimately denied.
The market is a huge get for the FHL, and the first step in more potential southern expansion in 2020, with the nearest team for this coming season at around seven hours away in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s also a major win for the FHL because the market had reportedly been hotly contested, with the SPHL having multiple groups also pursuing putting a team back in the city over the past few months.
According to sources close to the situation, more details on the team will be announced following the FHL’s league meetings in early May, including naming a President/General Manager of the team.