A total of seven professional hockey teams have called Cincinnati home and for several seasons, two played in the Queen City at the same time. Following the Mohawks (1949-1958), the Wings (1963-1964), the Swords (1971-1974), the Stingers (1975-1979), and the Tigers (1981-1982) the Cincinnati Cyclones began playing in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) in 1990. The ECHL is the third tier of pro hockey in North America. In 1992, the team’s owner, Doug Kirchhofer, was offered an expansion franchise in the International Hockey League, at the time, the second tier of hockey along with the American Hockey League. He accepted, selling his ECHL franchise to a group from Birmingham, Alabama.
The Cyclones played their home games at the Cincinnati Gardens, former home of the Mohawks, Wings, and Swords. However, following the 1997 season, the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a lease renewal.
Kirchhofer instead purchased the Riverfront Coliseum, former home of the WHA’s Stingers. The building was renovated and renamed The Crown, later renamed FirstStar Center, and finally U.S. Bank Arena, its name today.
The Gardens, looking to find a tenant to replace the Cyclones, convinced the struggling Baltimore Bandits of the American Hockey League to move to Cincinnati. Already a farm team of the NHL’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the franchise adopted the parent club’s name upon arriving in the Queen City in the fall of 1997.
For the next 6 seasons, the city had two minor league hockey teams. Even after the 2001, season, when the IHL folded, the Cyclones did not cease to exist as the Miami Matadors of the ECHL (the former Louisville RiverFrogs) rode into town and took the name. They lasted until the end of the 2003/2004 season when they suspended operations.
TV commercial for the Mighty Ducks
While this should have been a boost for the crosstown Mighty Ducks, their fortunes didn’t improve as the Anaheim Mighty Ducks switched their affiliation to Maine’s Portland Pirates. At the end of the 2004/2005 season, the Ducks also suspended operations.
The city was without a hockey team for one season as the Ducks hoped to return for the 2005/2006 season as the Cincinnati RailRiders. However, they were unable to reach the 2,000 season ticket threshold required by the AHL in order for the team to take the ice.
The Cyclones were resurrected in 2006 and joined the ECHL, where they have played ever since. In 2007, after to years of being dormant, the former Ducks emerged in Rockford, Illinois and became the IceHogs.