CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte Checkers are one of four teams still alive in the 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs, allowing them the opportunity to bring the first professional title to the Queen City since the Charlotte Knights baseball team won the International League Championship in 1999. The Sting was the last Charlotte professional team to play for a national championship, losing in the WNBA Finals to Los Angeles in 2004. The Carolina Panthers won the 2004 NFC Championship, but lost in the Super Bowl.
Charlotte trails 1-0 in the best-of-seven American Conference Championship Finals with Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday at Florida. The series moves to Charlotte for Game 3 on Friday at 7:05 p.m. and Game 4 on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. The winner of the Checkers and Everblades series will advance to the Kelly Cup Finals against either the Trenton (New Jersey) Titans or the Alaska Aces. Alaska won Game 1 of the National Conference Finals 6-0 on Tuesday in front of 6,451 in Anchorage. It was the third straight standing-room-only crowd and the fourth sellout crowd in a row for the Aces, who are averaging 6,151 per game in the postseason in 6,251-seat Sullivan Arena.
The ECHL had 28 teams playing in 16 states across America and one Canadian province in 2004-05 and in 2005-06 will welcome new members in Phoenix and Stockton, Calif. Owned and operated by the Phoenix Suns, the Phoenix Roadrunners will play at America West Arena. The ownership group for Stockton includes Michael Reinsdorf of the Chicago Bulls. Michael Reinsdorf’s father, Jerry Reinsdorf, who is chairman of both the Bulls and the Chicago White Sox, was part of the original ownership group of the ECHL team in Birmingham, Ala.
The Kelly Cup trophy is named for Patrick J. Kelly, who has lived in Charlotte with his wife June for more than 30 years. Kelly was commissioner for the first eight seasons of the ECHL, which had its offices in the Queen City from 1991-96. Kelly, who was named commissioner emeritus of the ECHL in June 1996, was head coach and general manager of the Checkers from 1973-76, leading the team to the Southern Hockey League regular season and postseason titles in 1974-75 and 1975-76 and twice being named coach of the year.
The Charlotte Clippers, who were renamed the Checkers in 1962, brought the first hockey championship to the City of Charlotte in 1957 when they won the Boardwalk Trophy, presented to the postseason champion of the Eastern Hockey League. The Checkers brought a fourth hockey championship to Charlotte in 1996 when they won the final Jack Riley Cup, the trophy presented to the ECHL champion from 1989 until the introduction of the Kelly Cup in 1997.