Georgia’s historic heartland is not the first place that comes to mind when someone mentions hockey. But the winter sport has a rich and interesting history in Macon. The Macon Mayhem’s inaugural season began late October and continues a tradition that began in 1973.
The Mayhem (2-4-2) sit seventh in the nine team Southern Professional Hockey standings. Their two wins came against the rival Columbus Cottonmouths.
Coach Kevin Kerr said the team’s first win was huge in an interview with The Telegraph.
"It was an all-around good team effort; we actually looked like a hockey team,” Kerr said. “We had a system coming in and we stuck to it,"
But it was almost not meant to be.
The Mayhem — then Riverhawks — called the city of Augusta, Georgia their home. The team won the 2011-2012 regular season title, but in October 2013 the Riverhawks had serious problems. The ice refrigeration system at James Brown Arena, the team’s facility, malfunctioned. Team owner Bob Kerzner, the city of Augusta and arena operator Global Spectrum could not reach an agreement on repairing or replacing the 1.2 million dollar system. The team sat out the 2013-2014 season.
Kernzer considered relocating the team to Tallahassee, Florida or Greensboro, North Carolina. But Macon contacted the SPHL to express interest in hosting a franchise. The move made sense.
Macon’s first minor league team, the Macon Whoopees, played in the Southern Hockey league during the 1973-74 season. The league folded in 1977. Hockey returned to the city in 1996 as the Whoopee franchise was resurrected. The team played in the Central Hockey league until the Whoopee folded in 2001. When the SPHL started up in 2004, one of the original teams that joined was the Macon Trax. The team folded in 2005, 3 years after its founding.
When the Macon-Bibb city council approved a five year deal for the Mayhem to play in the Macon Coliseum last June, hockey was officially back.
“I think there is a lot of buzz in the city about, because we are the only professional sports team here," said Alec Kessler, the team’s broadcaster.
The team sat out the 2014-2015 season to develop their fanbase, and Kessler said the crowds have delivered. At their season opening exhibition against Columbus, the Mayhem recorded the attendance at 2,012.
“The everyday people showed so much support for having hockey back in Macon," Kessler said.
Players have gained some notoriety. John Schiavo was the first member of the team to be called up. He spent time this summer in the New York Islanders organization before coming to Macon to try out for the Mayhem. Last week, he was called to the the Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL. Although his team in Macon was short, Schivao says he enjoyed being around the fans and the team.
“It was good...playing in front of fans that haven't seen hockey in ten years,” Schiavo said. “That building was amazing,"
The team plays the Fayetteville Fireantz Nov. 21 then heads on the road for a five game road trip. The return home Dec. 11 to play Fayetteville.
For more information on the team, visit their website.