Set Sail with the Hometown Hockey Team

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The Savannah Ghost Pirates prepare to take the ice for the inaugural (spooky) season 

Photography courtesy of SAVANNAH GHOST PIRATES

TO SOME, ICE HOCKEY in a warm southern city like Savannah may seem unexpected. Then again, the Savannah Hockey Classic — a collegiate ice hockey tournament dating back to 1999 — typically has held its popular games at the Savannah Civic Center every January. 

And considering the city’s location between two other non-traditional cities that already have teams — Charlotte and Jacksonville — Savannah is an ideal place for burgeoning hockey fans.

So, since the shovel hit the dirt on the Oak View Group’s development of the Enmarket Arena, the ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) has been working to bring mid-level professional action to the rink beyond the annual collegiate games (now known as the Enmarket Savannah Hockey Classic). 

After the Savannah team was officially accepted into the ECHL, a naming rights contest with more than 3,000 entries determined who the city would be rooting for: the Savannah Ghost Pirates.

“Two things Savannah is known for are ghosts and pirates, and we decided that the best thing was to combine those two,” says Bob Ohrablo, team president. “We sampled it out to several focus groups, and they loved it. The logo has become one of the most popular logos, if not the most popular logo, in the league in terms of merchandise sales.”

Although Savannah isn’t a typical sports market, its people are proud of and enthusiastic about their city and its quirks. The Savannah Bananas have carved out a unique niche and put Savannah on the sports map, and Ohralbo is confident the Ghost Pirates will be following suit. In fact, as of mid-August, the team was leading the league in season ticket memberships, with over 4,000 sold. Single game tickets are expected to become available in early September.

“People already know Savannah is a great place to visit, and this will just reinforce that,” he says.

But bringing hockey to Savannah takes more than just an arena and a team. The Ghost Pirates’ Director of Community Relations and Game Presentation, Bryan Sklover, explains that the team also hopes to create a lasting culture around the sport.

“For us, it’s not just about putting a hockey team in an arena and playing 36 games,” Sklover says. “It’s about building a youth program and getting hockey sticks in the kids’ hands and building the culture in general, and Savannah has never had that before.”

On Aug. 17, the Ghost Pirates revealed the mascot’s new name, Davy, which was selected through a campaign with submittable suggestions, further demonstrating the team’s commitment to engage the local community. Fans will be able to see the mascot — sponsored by Memorial Health — and the team in action at Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Oct. 22, or at the Ghost Pirates’ first home game against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Nov. 5 at Enmarket Arena. The team also recently announced the addition of Assistant Coach Alex Lot as well as signed Darion Hanson as the first player in franchise history.

“I can’t wait for opening night,” Ohrablo says. “The place will be rocking. What I’m excited about is that we’re able to present some new opportunities for families to come together and cheer on their home team. That’s what makes me happy.”