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Charlotte Checkers (Clippers)


Charlotte Checkers (Clippers)

Charlotte Clippers in action

So why are the Charlotte Checkers under "defunct teams?" There was a Checkers hockey team before the current one, playing in the Eastern Hockey League and Southern Hockey League from 1956 to 1977. In January of 1956, Carlin's Iceland in Baltimore, Md. caught fire and burned to the ground. That rink was the home of the Baltimore Clippers of the East Coast Hockey League. The team had 12 home dates left, and nowhere to play.

The team wanted to find the nearest "large" city, and saw that North Carolina had no professional hockey franchises. They decided to see if the sport would work in the Queen City.

Five games were played at the Charlotte Coliseum (now Bojangles' Coliseum), and were wildly popular. 8,000 people were expected for the inaugural match, but over 10,000 showed up. Over 3,000 people would actually be turned away. Over 40,000 fans attended the final home games. Seeing the strong reaction, an and wanting to inject new life in the franchise, the team relocated to Charlotte full-time for the 1956 season. The move made the Charlotte Clippers the first professional hockey franchise in North Carolina.

The Clippers would win the EHL Championship (the Atlantic City Boardwalk Trophy) in that first season, and back-to-back Walker Cup regular season titles the first two full years in Charlotte. They would be renamed the Charlotte Checkers in 1960. The Checkers would win back-to-back EHL titles again in 1971 and 1972 seasons.

The The EHL would cease operations after the 1972-73 season, and the Checkers (along with most of their division mates) joined the Southern Hockey League. Charlotte would yet again win back to back titles, taking the SHL Championship in 1975 and 1976. The run would come to an end, however, when the SHL, and all it's teams, folded after the 1977 season.

Fun fact: In 1958 - 1959, a 21 year old from Montana named Robert was in training camp with the Clippers, but didn't make the squad. His hockey career would later end because he didn't like riding buses. Ironically, he'd have no problem hurtling himself over buses years later, after he'd picked up the nickname "Evel." Yes, Robert "Evel" Knievel briefly played minor-league hockey in Charlotte.

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