Carolina Hurricanes: History of Hockey in NC; Greensboro

3 Oct 1997: General view of the first home game for the Carolina Hurricanes as they play the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Penguins won the game 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones /Allsport
3 Oct 1997: General view of the first home game for the Carolina Hurricanes as they play the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Penguins won the game 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones /Allsport /

Hockey has a long history in North Carolina. The city of Greensboro has some of the deepest roots in the state, dating back to the 1950’s, as well as being the birthplace of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Greensboro has been home to multiple hockey franchises over the decades. Ranging from minor league teams, all the way up to the National Hockey League when the city was the original home for the Carolina Hurricanes for their first couple of seasons when they moved from Hartford, Connecticut to North Carolina.

Greensboro’s relationship with hockey began all the way back in 1959 with the Greensboro Generals of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). The Generals were an expansion franchise for the 1959-1960 season when the Troy Bruins moved from the International Hockey League (IHL) to the EHL. They called the newly constructed Greensboro Coliseum their home.

While most people may think that not much effort is put into constructing minor league teams, they would be sadly mistaken when it came to this team. The Generals put major effort into going out and recruiting talented players to come play in Greensboro. All that effort paid off as well. The Generals made it to the finals three seasons straight; 61-62, 62-63, 63-64. They were also crowned the ECHL champions for the 1962-1963 season. The Generals went to the finals again in the 1969-1970 season.

Following the 1972-1973 season, the Generals left the ECHL for the newly formed Southern Hockey League (SHL). Sadly, the Generals didn’t have a ton of the success in the SHL. They continued to play in the Greensboro Coliseum from 1973-1975. However, they were forced to move to the smaller Piedmont Arena because of poor revenue. They didn’t make the playoffs a single time during their tenure in the SHL. The final nail in the coffin came for the franchise during the 1976-1977 season when the team was forced to fold halfway through the season along with three other teams.

During their time in the EHL and SHL, the Greensboro Generals had multiple affiliations with different NHL teams. Their first and longest affiliation was with the Chicago Blackhawks from 1967 to 1971. Then came a short lived time with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 1971-1972 season. The 1974-1975 season was spent with the New York Islanders, and the final NHL affiliations for the Generals were with the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings for the 1975-1976 season. The Generals also had multiple affiliations with different minor league teams throughout their lifespan as well.

Greensboro was without a hockey team for a while, but that time came to an end when the Greensboro Monarchs came to the city. The Monarchs played in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The arrival of the Monarchs also marked the return of hockey to Greensboro Coliseum. In their inaugural season, they won the Riley Cup in the ECHL finals when they defeated the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds. They made it to the finals again the following season and in their last ECHL season; they came up short both times.

In early 1995, the Monarchs hosted the ECHL All-Star game. During that time, the wheels for the franchise to leave the ECHL along with Charlotte and other teams were set into motion. The road for the Monarchs’ exit from the ECHL was a bit of a rocky one, but they were eventually accepted into the AHL. Back in August 1995, Tom Steadman wrote a detailed timeline of this whole situation which can be read here.

Following the 1994-1995 season, the franchise was dissolved by the ECHL when Monarch ownership voted to leave the ECHL for the American Hockey Leauge (AHL). After the move, they changed their name to the Carolina Monarchs, and were the minor league affiliate for the NHL’s Florida Panthers. The new incarnation of the Monarchs didn’t have much success during their short time in the AHL; they missed the playoffs during both of their seasons in Greensboro.

In 1997, the Monarchs were forced to move when the Hartford Whalers, now known as the Carolina Hurricanes, announced that they were moving to North Carolina and would be playing in Greensboro Coliseum. The Monarchs moved to New Haven, Connecticut and became the New Haven Beast.

In 1999, when the Hurricanes left Greensboro Coliseum for their permanent home in Raleigh, the ECHL returned to Greensboro with a new incarnation of the Greensboro Generals. Sadly, this franchise didn’t have as much success as the original Generals. Ownership was forced to build the front office in three months, and the team only made the playoffs once. The franchise would go on to be dissolved in 2004.

Greensboro tends to be forgotten about when it comes to hockey in the south, but the original Greensboro Generals and Monarchs are considered to be some of the first southern hockey teams to actually build loyal fan bases and paved the way for other southern hockey teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators. Without these franchises, hockey may not have had the success it has in North Carolina, or the southern United States that it has.

Next. History of Hockey in NC; Carolina Thunderbirds. dark

Question for CC readers: For those that saw any of these teams play in Winston-Salem, what was your favorite moment?