Despite being one of the only substantial cities in the South without ice, the game of hockey is thriving in Chattanooga.
A league called Hockey Chattanooga is in their second week of the season. Games take place at Chatt Town Skate Park near the First Tennessee Pavillion and adjacent to Finley Stadium. The organization was founded in 2009.
The only difference between Hockey Chattanooga’s game and ice hockey are the skates (inline rollerblades) and the surface (concrete instead of ice). The game is still intense, exciting and fast.
This year, thanks to an increase in participation from college students—mainly Covenant and UTC—the league was able to split into two divisions based on skill level. Four teams make up the “developmental” division, allowing more time for novices to learn the game at a slower pace. The veterans—players with five years or more of experience—are in the “competitive” division, which features five teams.
Games are every Monday and Thursday and consist of two 25-minute periods. Goalies are assigned and have no team affiliation. Instead, they compete against each other in a separate category.
Teams skate four on four and penalties are the same. If you misbehave you get to sit in the penalty box for a few minutes while your team skates down a man.
The players range in size and age. You'll find orthodonists, firefighters and computer technicians at the rink.
Brandon Bewley is an administrator for the league. He hopes Hockey Chattanooga can grow enough to warrant a facility.
“The end goal is to have our own hockey facility,” he said. “To not have to rely on the city to facilitate.”
Bewley, a UPS driver, sees Chattanooga as a place where hockey could thrive. Ideally, the city would have a facility not unlike Knoxville’s Cool Sports, which features multiple sheets of ice for practice and competitive games.
Likewise, Knoxville also hosts the Ice Bears minor-league hockey franchise, which Bewley said would work in Chattanooga too.
“A $10 to $12 seat for a minor-league hockey game,” he said. “Who isn’t going to jump on that?”
The issue would be a suitable arena. Mackenzie arena at UTC just wasn’t built for hockey.
In the interim, the reality is that Hockey Chattanooga is growing. This year, Bewley said 20 new participants have joined the developmental division.
One of those players is 16-year-old Matt Lewis. He attends East Hamilton High School. This year marks his second season of play with Hockey Chattanooga.
“Hockey is just such an awesome sport,” he said. “Everybody in the south thinks about football, but hockey is just so fast and amazing.”
Lewis decided to join a pick-up league several years ago and slowly started conditioning his body to the rigors of hockey.
“I had to gain a lot of body mass because I’m a skinny guy,” he said. “I run cross-country for endurance, but it wears on you. Hockey is a tough sport.”
Those interested in learning more about Hockey Chattanooga can contact Bewley via email. The current season ends in December, but Monday night practices are open to anybody. A complete schedule of games is listed here.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.