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Jacksonville shines spotlight on ECHL all-star hockey game

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Legions of hockey fans will descend on Jacksonville for the ECHL all-star game in January — an event that local leaders are touting as a chance to spotlight the city as a true hockey town.

Details of all-star weekend were announced Wednesday during a news conference including the Jax Chamber, Mayor Lenny Curry and leaders of the Jacksonville Icemen hockey team.

The plans include:

  • A Fan Fest opening Jan. 16 with live music, Hall of Fame displays, interactive games and a chance to mingle with all-star players.
  • The all-star game, scheduled for the following evening at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, home of the Icemen. The game will be televised nationally on the NHL Network. The format will pit the entire Jacksonville Icemen team against a team of ECHL All-Stars representing the other teams in the League.
  • Several skills events.
  • Induction of the 14th Class of the ECHL Hall of Fame.

The city's selection to host the events is perceived as something of a coup for a team in just its fifth season in Jacksonville. Iceman President Bob Ohrablo said Jacksonville has embraced the team with an average crowd of 6,000 fans per game.

The ECHL estimates the game will generate more than $1 million in economic impact as players, coaches and fans fill hotel rooms for three days.

Jacksonville was scheduled to host the all-star game last year, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ECHL, formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League, began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams and affiliations with NHL teams.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service and was recognized as a Pulitzer finalist for breaking news. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida, including positions at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the Tampa Bay Times and the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, where he directed regional coverage and later business news. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, where he was editor of the daily student newspaper. You can reach Randy at rroguski@wjct.org or on Twitter, @rroguski.