It may be 90 in the shade and a challenge to keep your ice cubes from melting in your favorite beverage.
But, don’t fret the heat. Ice hockey is just over three months away.
The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs enter their second season in the Southern Professional Hockey League with high hopes of making a successful playoff run after falling just short of postseason play last year.
The Dawgs open the 17-18 campaign on Friday, October 20 at 7:05 against the newly rebranded Fayetteville Marksmen, the first of 28 home dates in the 56-game SPHL regular season.
Roanoke’s home schedule is family-friendly this year, consisting of four Thursday night games, 11 Fridays, 12 Saturdays and one Sunday game.The Dawgs will host Fayetteville on Thanksgiving, November 23, and will entertain the Knoxville Ice Bears on New Year’s Eve. All home games will be at the Berglund Center.
Roanoke will be looking to come out of the gate strong, with 8 of their first 9 games on the Berglund Center home ice. The Dawgs have 5 December home dates including the 30th and 31st, followed by five January home games that include three straight between January 5-12. February has five games at the Berglund Center, including four straight home contests spread over the February 9-10 and 16-17 weekends.
Roanoke plays 7 straight on the road that stretches from February 18 through March 10, including games at Mississippi, Pensacola and Macon, sandwiched between games at Knoxville.
Peoria travels to Roanoke for the Dawgs regular season home finales March 30-31, before Roanoke hits the road to Peoria to end the regular season with a pair April 6-7.
One change fans will see this year is the makeup of the 10-team SPHL. The Birmingham Bulls will be a new addition to the league, replacing the Columbus Cottonmouths who made the decision to cease operations for the 2017-18 season after a new buyer could not be finalized. The Cottonmouths hope to return for the 2018-19 campaign.
Rail Yard Dawgs marketing director Alexandra Martin says everyone in the Roanoke organization is excited about the upcoming season and many new things are planned for the fans.
“We really felt great about last year and our attendance exceeded what we had expected,” Martin noted in a recent phone interview. Roanoke finished last year with an average home attendance of 3,136, which ranked 5th in the league.
“We’ve been selling season tickets, and single game tickets will go on sale September 20th,” Martin added. “This year we will have 8 giveaway nights that will include everything from bobbleheads to celebrating 50 years since the beginning of professional hockey in the Roanoke Valley.”
“We have 5-game packages available this year and an incentive for group sales, with no minimum or maximum, that gives cash back to the groups. One new addition at the Berglund Center will be added seating on the ice level that have raised chairs and tables to give more of a party atmosphere.”
“We took a lot of positives away from last season and want to continue to build on that success.”
(photo to follow separately)