The Birmingham Bulls name has a history that goes back to the 70s and the World Hockey Association when owner John Bassett moved his Toronto Toros to Birmingham 1976. They were loved by the Birmingham fans and played at the BJCC until the NHL/WHA merge. After the Bulls were excluded from the merge in 1979, they joined the Central Hockey League but the team disbanded during its second season. An attempt to revive the brand in the ACHL was short lived and is possibly the shortest lived team in hockey history playing only 3 games in 1983 before folding due to ownership issues.
The next incarnation of the Birmingham Bulls came in 1992 when Art Clarkson convinced the owners of the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones to relocate to Birmingham after Cincinnati was awarded an IHL franchise. That team had a good run and produced many fans favorites. Again, Birmingham showed its love for hockey and the Bulls. Unfortunately, it was ultimately sold by then-owner Charles Felix and moved to Atlantic City, NJ. and played 4 seasons as the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies. The franchise now plays in Great Falls, NY as the Adirondack Thunder.
A couple of ironies come to mind with this version of the Bulls. One is that the Cincinnati Stingers were the only other surviving WHA team to be excluded in the WHA/NHL merger. The other is that Clarkson has once again brought hockey back to the Birmingham area and the Bulls once again have hit the ice only this time in Pelham, Alabama as the newest member of the SPHL.
The SPHL is the perfect league for Pelham in that the geographic footprint is largely in the southeast. The SPHL had approached Pelham about membership when the Mississippi Surge was looking for ownership but that team eventually relocated to Roanoke, Virginia as the Rail Yards Dawgs.
After hitting something of a wall in talks with the BJCC, attention was turned to Pelham. This time Pelham and the Pelham Civic Complex were ready to talk pro hockey. After the city approved the lease to the Complex, things moved pretty fast. An ownership group came together, the expansion franchise was approved and the 2017-18 Birmingham Bulls had a future. Pelham has made many awesome improvements to the main ice arena at the Pelham Civic Complex and renovations are ongoing.
Former standout Bulls player Jamey Hicks walks the bench and calls the shots as head coach and another favorite, Craig Lutes is his assistant coach. Ex-Bulls goalie, Greg Dreveny, took on goalie coach duties and many current staff members have ties to the past teams. You can hear Eli Gold call the games on WERC 960, another blast from the past.
Many fans are sure to come away with a new favorite Bull as they watch the “new Bulls” play. Many, me included, can’t help but reminisce about their past favorites as they lock in on the newest group of wingers, defenders and enforcers. It’s been 16 years since Birmingham hockey fans had a legitimate reason to be excited about professional hockey; and we have Mr. Clarkson to thank for it… again.
Rick Foster – Birmingham Bulls Social Media and ex 7-year-old BJCC arena usher