A lot has been made over the last few months regarding the breakup between the Evansville IceMen and the city of Evansville, Indiana. Lease negotiations took place during pretty much the entire ECHL season as the team looked to stay in Evansville, but talks broke down and the IceMen ultimately decided to move to Owensboro, Kentucky.
What had originally looked to be a move that would take effect next season, the IceMen later announced that due to the facility that was to be their new home in Owensboro needing extensive renovations, the team would be dormant for next season with a plan to begin anew in the 2017-18 season.
The city of Evansville on the other hand, was not planning to be without hockey for a season. Things were quickly put into place to welcome a Southern Professional Hockey League team into the city to take the place of the IceMen. From the time that the IceMen announced their move on January 19th, the city only took a couple of weeks before they announced that they would be home to a SPHL expansion team on February 8th. Just two weeks ago on March 22nd, the team announced their head coach next season in former Texas Stars and former IceMen head coach Jeff Pyle.
As is the case with all new teams, hockey fans always have an interest in what the organizations decide to name their teams and what the brand identity in the form of a logo will be. As I was going through the US Trademark database today, I found a new listing for an Evansville Thunderbolts trademark. On March 30th, the trademark was filed by VW Sports of Evansville, LLC with goods and services listed as entertainment purposes in the nature of professional ice hockey exhibitions. There’s a reason I put the emphasis on professional in that last sentence, as there is already a NA3HL team that holds the name Thunderbolts. This begs the question, could the SPHL team share the Thunderbolts name with the current NA3HL team? It’s seen in many places where junior teams take the name of a local professional franchise and add a “Jr.” to the name. What’s to say the opposite couldn’t happen? With the NA3HL as a Tier-III junior league, a couple of steps down from the USHL, the categories for goods and services most likely don’t specify between professional and junior hockey, but there’s a little more that brings the possibility about.
The LLC that filed the trademark, VW Sports of Evansville, was only created back on February 11th – a couple of days after the city announced they would be receiving the expansion team. And while the LLC is listed on the trademark, a quick search of the NA3HL Thunderbolts website shows that the team is owned by Total Package Hockey, an entity that puts together multiple prospect camps and programs throughout the year, of which TPH has many events listed under the Thunderbolts.
With the team’s own official Twitter listing Thunderbolts as an option for their “Name the Team” contest, I’d say that we have a pretty good chance in seeing the Thunderbolts joining the SPHL next season.