Georgia sports fans are incredibly supportive of the state’s big league baseball, football and basketball teams. But those are not the only teams to play on the Georgia stage. Georgia’s lesser-known professional and semi-professional sports teams thrill fans with exciting competition and winning records and provide high-caliber competition for very little money.
The Thrashers may have flown to Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean lovers of ice hockey can’t still enjoy the game here in Georgia. The Gwinnett Gladiators play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) as the affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Since moving to Duluth for the 2003-04 season, the Gladiators have made the playoffs eight times. Each year the Gladiators thrill their fans at Gwinnett Arena with awesome promotions such as Star Wars night and a teddy bear toss.
In Columbus, the Cottonmouths are one of the top teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Since helping found the SPHL, the Cottonmouths have never missed the playoffs and have won the championship twice, including receiving the inaugural Presidents Cup. The Cottonmouths are great supporters of their local community and promote both youth and adult leagues, teaching everyone how to skate and play the most popular game on ice.
Having first played as the Augusta RiverHawks from 2010 to 2013, the Macon Mayhem will begin playing as a member of the SPHL in the 2015-16 season. Even prior to the start of the new season, the Mayhem and the Cottonmouths are preparing for the fiercest rivalry in the SPHL!
People are going crazy over the Major League Soccer expansion team coming to Atlanta. They start play in 2017 and, though they have yet to be named, are already growing a following. But before soccer at the highest level comes to Georgia, you still have the opportunity to check out some fantastic soccer sides.
For many, the Atlanta Silverbacks will always be Atlanta’s team. Atlanta Silverbacks Park is home to not only the North American Soccer League (NASL) side, but also the Women’s and Reserves’ teams. And did you know Reggie Bush and David Beckham filmed an Adidas commercial at the park? The Terminus Legion supporters group (emphasis on the “support”) has been instrumental in making Atlanta a prime soccer location.
Based in Conyers, the Georgia Revolution play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Since their founding in 2010, they have twice made it to the later stages of the US Cup, each time losing by one goal to the in-state rival Silverbacks. The Revolution support a local chapter of the Super Y-League, giving local kids the chance to get out and play the game themselves.
The Atlanta Rhinos also play at Silverbacks Park. They joined the USA Rugby League in 2014, forging a partnership with the Leeds Rhinos of Britain’s Super League.
Rugby Union is also popular in Georgia, with an entire region of USA Ruby based in the state. Teams are spread throughout Georgia with teams in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Blue Ridge, Columbus, the Golden Isles, Gwinnett, Macon and Savannah. The Georgia Rugby Union also features a women’s team based out of Atlanta.
And to forget mentioning collegiate rugby would be an outrageous mistake. Life University has been one of the premier teams in both professional and college-level rugby for men and women.
Fans of box lacrosse can rejoice as the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League announced recently they will move to Georgia to become the Georgia Swarm and begin playing in Gwinnett starting with the 2016 season. Box lacrosse is an indoor version of the popular sport, creating a faster-paced, more intense game.
And for those fans of field lacrosse, Johns Creek plays host each year to the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference Championships, and Kennesaw State University will play host to the ACC Championships in 2016 and the Major League Lacrosse Championship in 2015.