Solar Bears out of hibernation: Pro hockey returns to Orlando

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Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer (third from right), joined team, arena and Magic officials to make the announcement. (Valencia Voice photo)

Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando Magic president Alex Martins joined Orlando ECHL team owners Joe Haleski, Jason Siegel, and Bob Ohrablo to announce that the Orlando Solar Bears are officially back.

“The Orlando Solar Bears are coming out of hibernation,” said Ohrablo. “We are honored to bring the Solar Bears back to Orlando. Once the ECHL announced that we were awarded an expansion franchise, fans from throughout Central Florida made it clear to us what the team’s mane should be. We want to continue the proud tradition established by the DeVos family.”

The team has been in ‘hibernation’ since 2001 when it was owned by RDV Sports as part of the International Hockey League. The team left as the winner of the Turner Cup, the IHL Championship trophy.

“The Solar Bears were a strong part of our community and it is with open arms that we welcome them back to Orlando,” said Dyer. “The new Amway Center was designed with the goal of housing a hockey team and features amenities specific to hockey.”

Excutive director of Orlando Venues Allen Johnson explained that when the new Amway center was built, they had been “hoping to have hockey.” He expressed the need to look at the quality of the league they were going to associate with as well as the quality of the ownership and their business experience.

The East Coast Hockey League, which began in the 1988-89 season with five teams in four states, now has 20 teams in 16 states.

The team will be ready to play in October 2012 and will be unveiling information throughout the next six to eight months. One of the main announcements is the release of the new logo, which will be redesigned by Joe Bosack.

Former Valencia professor Mitchell Sarota was one of the many fans invited to the press conference. He was especially excited about the name because he and his kids had been involved with the team since the beginning.

As a former coach for the team’s youth program, he hopes Orablo’s statement comes true. “We are going to integrate this team very deeply into the community,” Orablo said.

“Fans have been very sad since the teams departure in 2001,” said Justin Stone. A fan since the team came together in 1995, Stone is looking forward to watching the different developments that come through with in the next few months.
“I have already made a deposit for season tickets.”