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"I didn't know there was a Southern Professional Hockey League. We're hockey players in our 20s, but we're living like retired people," he said. That included such stunts as giving the legendary Evel Knievel four shots against a Toros goalie during intermission one night, earning him ,000 for every goal.I didn't know there was hockey in Huntsville, Alabama. This is a story about a state where hockey shouldn't thrive, but does. (He'd score twice.)But a lease dispute at Maple Leaf Gardens meant the Toros would move, and owner John Bassett felt there was fertile ground in Birmingham, Alabama.(The smoking sections of the Huntsville and Birmingham arenas are very populated.) "These games are entertaining.If you're familiar with minor league sports, minor league baseball, they've got a lot of shenanigans that go on in between periods. The local high school marching bands at every game. Boy, they love their smoke in Huntsville: It fills the rink as the players skate out of an inflatable wolf head to start the game. Charles Pitman is the way to go, call 533-5" and the fans chant "oh, oh, oh!
Usually the jig is up the minute they open their mouths."Obviously, I don't hear my own accent," said Stuart Stefan, an Ontario-born assistant coach for the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League.In my second year, we had a full bench-clearing brawl," he said. We do these charity jersey auctions after games sometimes. "I'm going to say there's two kinds," said Balch, the team president. But they're coming because they know and play the game. In the summer, almost every player has another job. Mostly, they're doing things such as landscaping, like Stefan did, or working back home for family businesses, like Kaiser last summer at Molson Coors with his mother and sister. The Von Braun Center seats 10,000 and doubles as the performing arts center for Huntsville."Well, it sort of was: My team went into the other team's bench. "I'm going to say it's your person that grew up watching the game, and they know the game. Being humble is a time-tested hockey player cliché, but Balch said that's what the Havoc players are, and what they need to be to sell the game to a nontraditional market. It's cavernous, with a second deck that tests one's cardio fitness when walking to the top.The Bulls competed in the Central Hockey League until 1981 before folding.
Hockey was dormant in Alabama until it was revived in an unusual place: the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
It had had a thriving club hockey program since the 1970s, but earned varsity status in 1985 and full NCAA Division II status in 1986.