Tim Tebow Helping Bring ECHL Professional Hockey Team To Lake Tahoe

Tim Tebow Helping Bring ECHL Professional Hockey Team To Lake Tahoe

Tim Tebow and real estate magnate David Hodges are leading an ownership group that has been granted an ECHL franchise in Lake Tahoe.

Jul 10, 2023 by Chris Peters
Tim Tebow Helping Bring ECHL Professional Hockey Team To Lake Tahoe

The ECHL is coming to Lake Tahoe in 2024-25. The premier “AA” hockey league announced Monday that a group spearheaded by Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and real estate and auto dealership executive David Hodges will be bringing a team to the scenic tourist destination and the Tahoe Blue Event Center starting with the 2024-25 campaign.

The team, which has yet to be named, will become the 29th team in the ECHL and will be part of the league’s Mountain Division that includes 2022-23 regular-season champion and Kelly Cup finalist Idaho Steelheads. They’ll play in the brand new Tahoe Blue Event Center which is slated to have a 4,200-seat capacity for hockey in Stateline, Nevada. It will be located conveniently for the visitors that often come to the area for renowned skiing and casinos.

“The ECHL proudly welcomes the 29th Member Team to the League in the brand-new Tahoe Blue Event Center, expanding our geography in the western part of the continent, and creating natural rivalries for visiting fans with the Idaho Steelheads, Utah Grizzlies, and the entire Mountain Division,” said commissioner Ryan Crelin in a statement.

“This new team will offer the only professional sports action in the region, giving locals a hometown team and fast-paced entertainment, with a commitment to giving back and growing the game of hockey in the community. This ownership and operating group have already shown the ability to create a new generation of ECHL fans, and we look forward to the excitement they will bring to South Tahoe.”

The ECHL’s Mountain Division currently includes the Steelheads, the Grizzlies, the Allen Americans, Rapid City (South Dakota) Rush, Kansas City Mavericks, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder.

Tebow is no stranger to the ECHL as he has been a minority investor in the ownership group that operates the Jacksonville Icemen and Savannah Ghost Pirates, the latter of which is the most recent expansion addition to the league. 

He is more famous, of course, as one of the all-time great quarterbacks in college football, leading the Florida Gators to a national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007. 

“I love that sports can bring people together from all over to enjoy camaraderie, competition, and community impact,” Tebow said in a statement. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be part of a group bringing hockey to the Tahoe area for fans and families to create memories for years to come.”

The new team will be managed by Zawyer Sports and Entertainment, which also manages operations for Jacksonville, Savannah and the Atlanta Gladiators.

“It is an honor and a privilege to steward this new franchise for the community,” said Hodges in a statement. “Tim and I are excited to be able to share this new team with the community. We look forward to engaging the fans as we name the team, design the logos and eventually drop the puck in October of 2024.  We believe in the power of sports to bring communities together and there's no better place than the South Lake Tahoe region. With this new ECHL team, we're committed to delivering unforgettable games, making lasting memories and impacting this community positively.”

This team will be a first for Tahoe as the nearest pro franchise is the Reno Aces who play in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The picturesque area, however, has had a memorable hockey moment.

Back in February 2021, the NHL hosted two incredible outdoor games on a rink constructed on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort with incredible views. Due to logistics of such an outdoor event, there were no fans at the game, but a large television audience tuned in to see two competitive regular-season games with one of the most beautiful backdrops the game has ever seen.

The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, in one game, while the Boston Bruins earned a 7-3 decision over the Philadelphia Flyers in the second contest held on consecutive days.

Now there will be a permanent team and Nevada will go from zero professional hockey teams to three in a span of seven years. 

The Vegas Golden Knights began play in 2017-18 in the NHL and just won the Stanley Cup. Their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights, played their first season in Nevada in 2020-21 after moving the San Antonio Rampage to the Vegas suburb. Soon, the Lake Tahoe team will set up shop seven hours north.

The ECHL will now have 29 teams, which gets the double-A league, ever closer to 32 which is the number of teams in the NHL and AHL currently. Some NHL teams are currently without ECHL affiliates. 

The league’s board of governors recently voted to expand its maximum membership cap to 32 teams, moving up from 30, suggesting that there could be more expansion on the way.

No matter what comes next, after the rousing success of the Savannah Ghost Pirates in a place previously not known for professional hockey, the Lake Tahoe expansion is going to be absolutely fascinating and another step in a very positive direction for a league on the rise.