About the Rockford IceHogs
The Rockford IceHogs introduced the Rock River Valley to professional hockey in 1999. The IceHogs, as members of the United Hockey League, played its first game on Oct. 15, 1999, against the Knoxville Speed at the Rockford MetroCentre.
Rockford’s franchise was purchased and relocated to Northern Illinois from Thunder Bay, Ontario by United Sports Venture. USV launched a ticket drive on March 3, 1998 to gauge the interest in professional hockey in Rockford. Just over 19 months later, the IceHogs debuted at the MetroCentre.
The IceHogs won their first ever game 6-2 over the Speed led by Brant Blackned’s hat-trick. Rockford was led by Head Coach Dale DeGray for its first two seasons.
The team name was selected by Rockford residents as a part of a fan poll held in conjunction with the Rockford Register Star. The name “IceHogs” beat other finalists including Rhinos, Mighty Oaks, Roughnecks, Ice Rangers, Rockets and Ricochet. The name was submitted by Belvidere resident Breanna Roush.
After leading the IceHogs for two seasons, DeGray was replaced by Scott Bell behind the IceHogs bench in 2001-02. Bell led Rockford for a season-and-a-half, before Scott Burfoot took the reins and led Rockford into the postseason for just the second time club history. Burfoot also played in three games for Rockford in 2002-03 before getting named head coach.
October 23, 2002
On Oct. 23, 2002 Tri-Vision Sports LLC, led by Rockford businessmen Jim McIlroy, Jeff Smith and Dr. Kris Tumilowicz announced that they had purchased the IceHogs from USV. The trio purchased the team with the goal of keeping it in Rockford after several threats from USV to relocate or disband the franchise.On August 20, 2003, the IceHogs announced a partnership with the Rockford Park District and formed the Jr. IceHogs youth hockey program. The in-house youth hockey league plays at both public ice rinks in the Rockford area, Riverview Ice House and Carlson Ice Arena. Former IceHogs player and coach Scott Burfoot runs the program through the Rockford Park District.
Mark Bernard was named the fourth Head Coach in four seasons in 2003-04 and was behind the bench until March 20, 2004 when he was replaced by Tim Mattila under an interim basis.
The early seasons of IceHogs hockey were built on cornerstones like J.F. Rivard, Mike Figliomeni, Dan Davies and Steve Cygan.
On June 17, 2004, Steve Martinson was named Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations of the IceHogs, bringing Rockford its first true contender. In Martinson’s first season at the helm of the IceHogs, the team compiled a record of 46-25-9, a franchise best for wins, and qualified for the postseason for the third time in the team’s first six seasons.
The IceHogs won their first ever postseason game on April 15, 2005, 3-0 at Kalamazoo over the Wings. Rockford went on to defeat the Wings in six games before falling in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, 2-1 in overtime, against the Fort Wayne Komets. The IceHogs built a 3-1 series lead before dropping the final three games of the series, including two in overtime.
Following the 2004-05 season, Tumilowicz announced that he had bought out McIlroy and Smith and that he added Craig Drektrah to the IceHogs’ ownership group.
The 2005-06 season still stands as Rockford’s most successful regular season record-wise in club history. The IceHogs carried a 48-19-9 record into the postseason, but for the second straight campaign failed to get out of the Western Conference Finals, getting swept by Kalamazoo in four games.
On Dec. 13, 2005, the IceHogs announced that they had signed their first ever affiliation agreement. The team became the UHL affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. At the time, they were the only UHL team affiliated with an NHL franchise.
In recognition of the organizations success on and off the ice, the IceHogs were named the UHL’s Member Club of the Year for the 2005-06 season for the second straight season.
Rockford spent eight seasons in the UHL and won its first championship on May 24, 2007. The IceHogs, led by Martinson, topped the Kalamazoo Wings in seven games with the series clincher at the MetroCentre. Rockford beat Kalamazoo 3-1 to take home the Colonial Cup in front of an IceHogs postseason record 6,236 fans. The game marked the final ever UHL contest.
Prior to the 2007-08 season, a new era of history began in Rockford as the IceHogs made the jump to the American Hockey League as the top affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. On March 19, 2007, the AHL Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale and relocation of the inactive AHL franchise in Cincinnati, owned by Gardens Hockey Inc. to Rockford.
Haviland would guide the IceHogs to a 44-26-4-6 record in the team’s first AHL season, qualifying the club for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Rockford defeated the Houston Aeros 4-1 in the best-of-seven West Division Semifinals series. The lone loss was a 1-0 double overtime defeat, the longest scoreless hockey game in AHL history as Ryan Jones scored on Corey Crawford after 86:57 of scoreless hockey at the MetroCentre.
The 2010-11 season also established a new high-water mark for attendance as the franchise eclipsed the 4,000 fans per game mark for the first time. On average, 4,360 fans passed through the turnstiles at the Rockford MetroCentre, a total of 175,418 overall in 2010-11.
The 2012-13 season began with the NHL lockout, putting six Blackhawks skaters in Rockford for the first-half of the campaign. After the lockout ended, Rockford would finish '12-13 as one of the hottest teams in the AHL, but fell one win shy of the Calder Cup Playoffs. In doing so, the IceHogs became the first team in the 77-year history of the AHL to win 42 games in the regular season.
After another successful season in 2013-14 which saw the IceHogs finish above .500 for the 10th straight season, the Hogs also set a then all-time attendance record with 182,540 fans visiting the BMO Harris Bank Center for 38 home games. Once again, the IceHogs had another banner year both on and off the ice in 2014-15. Rockford set AHL franchise records in points (99), wins (46), road wins (22), winning percentage (.651) and returned to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010. After a sweep of the defending Calder Cup Champion Texas Stars, the IceHogs were bounced in the second round of the playoffs. However, the Hogs enjoyed the success of the big league club as the Blackhawks went on to win their third Stanley Cup in six season, and included contributions from 12 former IceHogs. Overall, 84 different IceHogs skaters have appeared in the NHL, including 64 with the Blackhawks.
The IceHogs organization has established itself as a staple in the Rockford community. As the longest running sports team in Rockford, the IceHogs pride themselves with its work in the community through the IceHogs Charitable Foundation and as the premiere choice for entertainment in the Forest City.
An annual charity jersey auction has helped the IceHogs raise over $800,000 that benefits local non-profit charity organizations in the Rockford area.
The team, including players, coaches, front office members and mascots Hammy and Hammer Hog, made 164 community appearances in 2014-15.
For more information about the IceHogs, contact the corporate office at (815) 986-6465.