Posted by: emmaharger | August 19, 2011

My local team: Gwinnett Gladiators

With the departure of the Thrashers, Atlantans seeking the thrill of live hockey have fewer options (I keep waiting for the club-level Infernos to announce something intriguing related to my alma mater, but nothing has happened yet), but the rise of suburban Gwinnett County means that other things have also migrated out east of the city–like sports. Gwinnett got a Triple A level baseball team, the Gwinnett Braves, in 2009 after the team relocated from Richmond, Va., but the ECHL-level Gwinnett Gladiators date to 2003 after relocating from Mobile, Ala.

The rundown:

Gwinnett Gladiators play in the Eastern Conference, South Division

Team colors are brick, black, bronze and white

Home ice is the Arena at Gwinnett Center (right off I-85)

Affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes and Portland Pirates as of August 17 (formerly Thrashers/Wolves, but also affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks for 2008-09 and the Columbus Blue Jackets for 2009-10)

Appeared in the Kelly Cup finals in 2006, but lost to the Alaska Aces in five

2010-11 season: 72 games, 30 wins, 34 losses, 3 overtime losses, 5 shootout losses, 68 points

Jerseys look like this

and

Fun fact: #47 in this photo is Tom Glavine, who also had quite a career with the Atlanta Braves. He coaches his son's minor league hockey team now.

The Gladiators seem like a pretty grassroots, community-oriented team, a strategy that works well in the family mecca of Gwinnett. They have a presence at a lot of family fun-type events out in the big G right now even though it’s offseason. They are also very active on social media and recently hosted a contest to design a T-shirt for opening weekend, which will actually be when I’m in Boston. Right now the team roster is quite small indeed because I presume they are still negotiating with guys–a few weeks ago when I first visited the site, there was a full 2010-11 roster. However, many of the guys I recall seeing are basically my age! I’ve been told by people in many different areas that minor-level games are a different yet still very fun experience to see.

My one sticking point with the Gladiators is the name. Gwinnett is a county, not a city. While some ECHL teams are named for states instead of cities (Florida Everblades, South Carolina Stingrays, Alaska Aces, Idaho Steelheads, etc.), no other team is named for a county. Why the team couldn’t have been called the Duluth Gladiators, since they play in the city of Duluth, is beyond me. Perhaps they just wanted to be alliterative. But honestly, glass-sides seats are a mere $30 each ($31 day of game) and the cheapest seats are $10, the organization has already made it clear they will welcome needy Thrashers fans and my dad and stepmom, who live out in Gwinnett, have told me they’d like to go to some games with me. So, in the fall, I think I will–and I’ll write about my experiences here.

Also, when I googled “Gwinnett Gladiators” to snag some images of the jerseys, I saw about five photos of guys fighting. Seems promising!


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