Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Orlando Arena’ tag

1991-2016 Orlando Predators

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2005 Orlando Predators Media GuideArena Football League (1991-2016)

Born: February 7, 1991 – Arena Football League expansion franchise
Folded: October 12, 2016

Arenas:

Team Colors: Black & Red

Owners:

Arena Bowl Champions: 1998 & 2000

 

Text coming soon…

 

Orlando Predators Shop


Predators 3/4 Sleeve Logo T-Shirt

 

Orlando Predators Memorabilia

 

Orlando Predators Video

The final season. The Preds host long-time rivals the Tampa Bay Storm at Amway Center

 

In Memoriam

Preds Assistant Coach (’98-’01) and Head Coach (’02-’03) Fran Papasedero died in a single-car accident on June 19, 2003 at the age of 34.

Head coach Perry Moss (Preds ’91-’97) passed away August 7th, 2014 at the age of 88.

 

Downloads

2013 Orlando Predators Media Guide

2014 Orlando Predators Media Guide

2016 Orlando Predators Media Guide

2016 Orlando Predators Postseason Media Guide

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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2010 Orlando Titans

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Orlando TitansNational Lacrosse League (2010)

Born: August 11, 2009 – The New York Titans relocate to Orlando.
Folded: August 2010.

Arena: Amway Arena (13,680)

Team Colors: Navy & Orange

Owner: Gary Rosenbach

Champions Cup Championships: None

 

The Orlando Titans were brief visitors to the Central Florida pro sports scene, managing only a single season at Amway Arena in the winter of 2010.  The franchise was founded by hedge fund manager Gary Rosenbach as the New York Titans in 2006. The Titans spent three seasons in New York and New Jersey before shifting to Orlando in August 2009.

The Titans were a successful team on the carpet.  The club made it to the National Lacrosse League championship game in 2009 during its final season in New York.  In Orlando, the Titans won the East Division with an 11-5 record and advanced to the Champions Cup semi-finals, where they lost to the Toronto Rock. Casey Powell was named the NLL’s 2010 Most Valuable Player and Matt Vinc earned 2010 Goaltender-of-the-Year honors.

Off the field, the franchise bled red ink in both New York and Orlando.  Rosenbach bought the expansion rights for $3M in 2006 at the peak of the National Lacrosse League’s franchise valuation bubble.  Shortly before the Titans shifted from New York to Orlando in the summer of 2009, Rosenbach resigned from Galleon Group, the $7B hedge fund that he co-founded in 1997.  In October of that year, Galleon exploded in spectacular fashion. Prosecutors arrested Rosenbach’s former partner and co-founder Raj Rajaratnam for insider trading, along with several other Galleon employees. Rajaratnam was eventually sentenced to 11 years in prison in one of the rare Wall Street criminal prosecutions of the Great Recession era.  Rosenbach never faced charges.

Shortly after the 2010 season ended, Rosenbach either withdrew or substantially reduced his support for the Titans, throwing the team’s future into question.  In August 2010, the NLL confirmed that the Titans would sit out the 2011 season in an attempt to re-organize financially.  Rosenbach formally put the team up for sale for $1.4M a week later, which was less than half what he paid for the expansion rights four years earlier. There were no takers and the Titans were effectively out of business at that point.

 

Links

National Lacrosse League Media Guides

National Lacrosse League Programs

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1999-2002 Orlando Miracle

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2000 Orlando Miracle Media GuideWomen’s National Basketball Association (2000-2002)

Founded: April 22, 1998 – WNBA expansion franchise.
Moved:
January 28, 2003 (Connecticut Sun)

Arena: TD Waterhouse Centre (17,306)

Team Colors: Orange, Blue, Black and Silver

Owner/Operator: Rich DeVos

WNBA Championships: None

 

The Orlando Miracle joined the Women’s National Basketball Association as an expansion franchise for the league’s third season in the summer of 1999.  At the time, all WNBA clubs were located in NBA markets and operated by NBA ownership groups.  The DeVos family, owners of the NBA Orlando Magic, managed the Miracle, which shared similar colors, logos and mystical name with the men’s team.

The Miracle debuted at the TD Waterhouse Centre on July 10, 1999 against the WNBA defending champion Houston Comets.  The inaugural game crowd of 15,422 would hold up as the Miracle’s franchise record through all four seasons of the club’s existence.  The Miracle averaged 9,801 fans in 1999, which was good for sixth best in the 12-team WNBA.  Interest waned in year two, with the team never drawing more above 10,000 for any of its games.  By the Miracle’s fourth and final season in 2002, attendance dipped to 7,115 per game, placing Orlando 13th among the league’s 16 franchises.

On the court, the Miracle were mediocre, making the playoffs in only one of their four seasons.  The team’s best season was in 2000 under former Purdue Head Coach Carolyn Peck.  The team finished 16-16 and lost in the first round of the WNBA playoffs to the Cleveland Rockers.  Shannon Johnson (pictured on the team’s 2000 media guide, above right), Nykesha Sales and Taj McWilliams were perennial league All-Stars for the Miracle.

In October 2002, the WNBA dismantled its single-entity structure, wherein the NBA backstopped the operation of each local franchise.  The re-organization meant that non-NBA owners and non-NBA cities could enter the WNBA for the first time.  But it also meant that the NBA ownership groups that operated the existing franchises needed to decide whether they would take on the full and independent ownership of the teams.  NBA owners in Miami, Orlando, Portland and Utah decided to bow out of women’s basketball.  On October 21, 2002, the WNBA announced that the Miracle would not return to Orlando in 2003.

On January 28, 2003 the WNBA announced the sale of the Miracle franchise to the Mohegan Native American Tribe. The tribe relocated the team to their Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.  The new name of the team would be the Connecticut Sun.  The Sun became the first WNBA team to be located in a non-NBA market or managed by a non-NBA ownership group.

 

Orlando Miracle Memorabilia

 

Orlando Miracle Video

Fan-made 2002 Orlando Miracle vs. Charlotte Sting game montage.  With a soundtrack by Creed for some reason:

 

 ==Links==

WNBA Media Guides

WNBA Game Programs

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June 28, 1995 – Orlando Rollergators vs. Detroit Motor City Mustangs

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Orlando Rollergators vs. Detroit Motor City Mustangs
June 28, 1995
Orlando Arena
Roller Hockey International Programs

Kooky sport.  Bad market.  Dumb name.  Late start.  Out of state owners.  Check, check, check, check and…check.  The Orlando Rollergators of Roller Hockey International reside securely in our One-Year Wonders file of ill-conceived and unlamented minor league teams.

RHI was an effort to capitalize on the 1990’s in-line skating craze.  RHI played in big arenas during the summer time, with rosters primarily composed of minor league ice hockey players moonlighting during their off season.  Former Montreal Canadiens star Ralph Backstrom was the league’s front man and helped convince well-heeled NBA investors like Jerry Buss and Howard Baldwin to purchase franchises.  Other clubs were run more like mom-and-pops as was the case with the Orlando Rollergators, who were owned by the New Jersey Devils’ team orthopedist, Dr. Richard Commentucci.  Devils star and future Hockey Hall-of-Famer Slava Fetisov also held a minority stake in the Rollergators.

The Rollergators set up shop in Orlando in late March 1995, barely two months the start of the RHI season.  Central Florida is a notorious graveyard for goofy start-up sports leagues.  One notable exception was the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League, a wildly popular club during the 1990’s which routinely sold out the Orlando Arena.  Orlando wasn’t big enough for two made-for-cable Frankensports and the fans voted with their pocketbooks: they preferred the Preds.  So did the managers of the Orlando Arena, who sensibly gave the Predators the prime weekend dates and gave the Rollergators the leftover garbage: a bunch of Monday and Wednesday nights.  Commentucci and Fetisov neglecting to spend any money introducing their unfamiliar product didn’t help.

Long-time NHL winger Walt Poddubny was the Rollergators coach and, at age 35, occasionally strapped on the in-line skates as well.

This June 28th game was a typically lonely night of pro roller hockey at the O-Rena.  The ‘Gators played the Detroit Motor City Mustangs, another of RHI’s one-season-and-done entries.  1,121 lonely souls (announced) showed up on a Wednesday night.  In ten home games in 1995, the Rollergators never cracked 2,000 fans in the 13,000-seat building.  The Rollergators beat the Mustangs 7-3 on this evening, but that was a rarity.  The club finished the season dead last in the Eastern Confernece at 7-16.

Commentucci, Fetisov and fellow partner Igor Maller flew in for a late season match at the O-Rena in July.  Peering out at the announced crowd of 1,082, Fetisov gave an upbeat assessment to The Orlando Sentinel:

“We’ve come to stay,” said Fetisov.  “We’re not coming for one season and then run away.  We’re ready for this.”

The Rollergators played their final game two weeks later.

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The Rollergators were gone but RHI, improbably, returned to Orlando the following summer.  New owner Norton Herrick had real money, unlike the ‘Gator guys.  The real estate mogul previously tried to bring Major League Baseball to Orlando and was a rumored suitor for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers at one point in the 1990’s.  In addition to launching the Orlando Jackals franchise in 1996, Herrick bought 25% of RHI itself.  He sunk millions into the promotion of the roller hockey and the Jackals and won the league’s Murphy Cup championship in his first season of 1996.  The sport was still a loser on the balance sheet, however.  For his passion and largesse, Herrick lost a reported $4 million on the Jackals over two seasons from 1996 to 1997.

RHI itself shutdown at the end of 1997, returned briefly (and invisibly) in 1999, and was gone for good by the turn of the century.

Most of the principals of the Rollergators have now passed away. Owner Richard Commentucci passed at age 71 in 2011.  Head Coach Walt Poddubny died suddenly of a heart attack in 2009.  He was only 49.

Downloads:

Orlando Rollergators sources

 

Written by AC

August 30th, 2012 at 2:16 am

1995-2001 Orlando Solar Bears

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International Hockey League (1994-2001)

Born: December 1994 – IHL expansion franchise.
Folded:
June 5, 2001

Arena: Orlando Arena (15,820)

Team Colors: “Solar Purple, Seafoam Green, Sunset Orange, Growling Grey, Ice Blue & Solar Eclipse Black”

Owner: Rich DeVos

Turner Cup Champions: 2001

 

The Orlando Solar Bears were a minor league hockey team that operated for six seasons at the Orlando Arena/TD Waterhouse Centre from 1995 to 2001.  The Solar Bears were a consistently terrific team on the ice, but the team’s novelty factor in the Orlando community wore off quickly.  Attendance dropped from an announced average of 10,460 in the Solar Bears’ debut season of 1995-96 to only 5,156 during the club’s final winter in 2000-01, when the Solar Bears won the final International Hockey League Turner Cup championship.

The Solar Bears were owned by the DeVos family, who also owned and operated the Orlando Magic of the NBA.  Patriarch Rich DeVos co-founded the $6 billion Amway direct sales empire in 1959.  DeVos bought into the International Hockey League (IHL) at the top of a bubble market purchasing the Orlando franchise for $6 million in December 1994.  The IHL dated back to 1945 and as recently as the mid-1980’s had been a thrifty bus league confined to icy industrial cities of the upper Midwest like Muskegon and Kalamazoo.  In the early 1990’s, the league became an air travel league, attracted NBA ownership including Larry Miller (Salt Lake City) and Palace Sports & Entertainment (Detroit), and began charging multi-million dollar expansion fees.  The IHL’s newfound hubris was fueled by the NHL lockout during the 1994-95 season, which helped the minor league draw a record 5.85 million fans during the winter of 1994-95.  The league began to expand more aggressively into major non-traditional hockey markets like Orlando, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

Rich DeVos’ Orlando franchise would be the 19th franchise in the IHL and it marked the crest of the wave.  The IHL never grew beyond 19 clubs and it only sold one more expansion franchise during its final six seasons, which also went to the DeVos family for their home state of Michigan.

The Solar Bears were competitive right out of the gates under Head Coach Curt Fraser in 1995-96.  The team came out flat in its home debut at the Orlando Arena on October 6th, 1995, dropping a 5-1 decision to the Detroit Vipers in front of an announced crowd of 14,119.  But overall the team was terrific, winning the Central Division with a 52-24-6 record en route to the IHL’s Turner Cup finals in their debut season.  26-year old Craig Fisher led the IHL with an astounding 74 goals in 82 games.

In the finals, the Solar Bears ran into the Utah Grizzlies, losing in a four-game sweep.  But the series was closer than the final result indicated, with three of the four games going into sudden death overtime.  Games one and two took place in Orlando, drawing large crowds of 14,211 and 11,964 respectively.

The Solar Bears continued their winning ways throughout the rest of the 1990’s. The team never finished lower than second place in their division.  In 1999, the Solar Bears returned to the Turner Cup finals for the second time. They lost to the Houston Aeros in a best-of-seven series that went the distance.

By the 2000-01 season, the IHL was down to 11 teams, down from 19 in the 1996-97 season. The DeVos family was the largest investor in the league. Patriarch Rich was in charge of the Solar Bears and son Dan controlled the Grand Rapids and Kansas City franchises.  The entire league floundered under the burden of cross-continental travel, escalating payrolls, and a lack of financial support from the National Hockey League. The NHL preferred to place most of its subsidized farm clubs with the less ambitious and abrasive American Hockey LeagueAn amusing 1998 Houston Chronicle article pointed out that the $105 million dollar free agent contract signed by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Kevin Brown would cover the payrolls for all of the IHL’s 18 clubs for five years.  Nevertheless, the $1.2 million annual salary cap was aggressive for largely unsubsidized teams, combined with the high costs of travel, insurance and rent for major arenas.

The Solar Bears earned their third trip to the Turner Cup finals during the 2000-01 IHL season.  Even before the playoffs concluded, rumors of the league’s demise circulated. Six of the remaining eleven IHL clubs considered paying $2.5 million entry fees to defect to the 22-team American Hockey League.  Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Andera compared the plight of the Solar Bears to the fictional Charlestown Chiefs from the movie Slap Shot who competed for the Federal League title even as their fate was already sealed.   The third time was the charm for the Solar Bears, who defeated the Chicago Wolves four games to one to claim the IHL’s final Turner Cup Trophy in May 2001.

As expected, six IHL clubs formally joined the American Hockey League in June 2001, marking the end of the International League after fifty-six seasons.  Unlike the IHL, the AHL prevented investors from operating more than one franchise.  The DeVos family chose to enter their Grand Rapids Griffins franchise from their home state of Michigan into the AHL. They folded their money-losing clubs in Kansas City and Orlando.

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The Solar Bears never had a losing season in six years.  In their worst season, they won 12 games more than they lost and finished second place in their division.

Original Solar Bears GM Don Waddell was the General Manager and later President of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers for their entire run in Atlanta from 1999 to 2010.  He also served two stints at the Thrashers’ interim Head Coach.

In 2011 the East Coast Hockey League expanded to Orlando and the new club revived the Solar Bears name, along with the polar bear-in-shades logo.  The new Orlando Solar Bears debut in 2012.

 

Orlando Solar Bears Memorabilia

 

Links

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by AC

January 5th, 2012 at 4:11 am

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