This weekend marks another season for the Florida Eels and its new divisional rival the “Mad Hatters” from Atlanta Georgia. These two organizations have been battling it out for Southern Division supremacy for well over a decade. Originally the Mad Hatters were known as the Jr. Knights. They took the name from an ECHL and AHL team that played in Atlanta before the NHL franchise the Atlanta Thrashers came to town. They had that name for quite some time and last year surprised many with a name change to the Atlanta Kings.
Atlanta had always been one of the power house junior programs in the Southeast, first under the SEJHL, the Empire, the USP3, the EJHL South, and later the USPHL. In fact, the Eels and Atlanta were amongst the original junior teams in the Southeast. The Eels had been in existence for 3-4 years before Atlanta.
These two programs always battle hard. They leave everything on the ice. No game is a given. Each game is played extremely hard till the final buzzer. There is quite a bit of pride and legacy between the two programs. This year Atlanta comes in with new ownership, new coaches and they moved to a new facility and again changed its name. A fresh start and a new beginning. Moreover, the Mad Hatters have been placed in the Florida Division this season along with the new team out of Charleston SC – The Colonials. The Eels will be making two trips to Georgia and the Mad Hatters will be traveling to Fort Myers twice as well to complete the home and away series.
GM Scarpaci says we don’t know much about their teams this season. There are several returning players, but their new coaches and General Managers aggressively recruited many new comers. One thing for certain knowing the rich legacy and their new and experienced coaching staff they can be expected to very competitive.
We all know the approach of the Eels coaches. We take nothing for granted. We assume nothing. We have been training exhaustively over the last 21 days to be ready for this matchup. Our training has included many days of 4+ hours. Ice off-ice, video dryland – you name it. Sure, we have to travel 8-10 hours for the games this weekend but that is why the Eels GM decided to leave a day early. Many programs drive right straight through and get off the bus, warm up and go right into the games. In fact, most minor league pro teams and many college teams do that. Not with the Eels. I honestly believe that is counter intuitive. We travel that far we want to rest. The Eels want to make sure their players are well prepared for the weekend 4 games: 2 for Elite and 2 for Premier.
Let the games begin. Let the tradition and rivalry be re-kindled.