For Savannah, pro hockey is a 20-year-old itch, you need a long, curved hockey stick to scratch yourself.
The Savannah Ghost Pirates play their home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Enmarket Arena. A minor league affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights, the Ghost Pirates are the first professional hockey franchise to come to Savannah.
But they are not the first to flirt with the Hostess City.
The town has been courting a team since the early 2000s, when the success of a college club tournament, now known as the Savannah Hockey Classic, signaled area residents’ interest in the sport. Another minor league, the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL), explored adding a Savannah team in 2003, even hosting a series of regular season games at the Savannah Civic Center.
Negotiations between the ACHL and the city of Savannah broke down, and the saga of building a new arena soon followed. This facility opened earlier this year with a committed tenant: a hockey team announced in January 2021 that became known as the Ghost Pirates.
Ghost Pirates: The Haunting Begins
The Savannah Ghost Pirates, a minor league hockey team, play their first-ever home game at 7 p.m. Saturday to a sold-out crowd at Enmarket Arena. In the days leading up to the debut, the Savannah Morning News publishes a series of preview stories from the inaugural season.
► Savannah’s minor league sports history
► Q&A with Bob Ohrablo from Ghost Pirates
► A pro hockey team finally arrives in Savannah
► What you need to know about the Ghost Pirates league, the ECHL
► Ghost Pirates gaming experience: 5 things to watch out for
► Hockey 101: what you need to know about the game
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who has served on council in some capacity throughout the city’s long history with hockey, called the Ghost Pirates’ debut “the beginning of a new era of sports in our city,
“The home opener will put an exclamation mark on building a brand new arena to serve as a base,” Johnson said.
Fan anticipation has steadily grown since the franchise launched nearly two years ago. Saturday’s opening is sold out and the Ghost Pirates have sold around 3,500 season tickets in the 7,000-seat Enmarket Arena. Dozens of fans made the trip to Greenville, South Carolina for the team’s first-ever game on October 22.
“We’ve been talking about this team for almost two years and talking about hockey in Savannah forever,” said Chris Baisden, a Pooler resident who attended the season opener in Greenville. “Now it’s real.”
Beginning:Ghost Pirates fans are on hand as the team makes hockey history in Savannah
Savannah Enmarket Arena Timeline:The long road to replacing the Civic Center
Coolest place in town? Ice installed at Enmarket Arena ahead of Savannah Ghost Pirates season
Savannah is playing its first five games on the road. The Ghost Pirates are 4-0 heading into a Friday night game, also in Greenville. Both teams then travel across the state to play the inaugural game in Savannah on Saturday.
About the Ghost Pirates of Savannah
Location: Enmarket Arena (Capacity: 7,000)
Owner: Andy Kaufman
Coach: Rick Bennett (first season)
Affiliation: Vegas Golden Knights (NHL), Henderson Silver Knights (AHL)
League: ECHL (28 teams)
Matches 2022-2023: 72 matches (36 home, 36 away)
Opening: October 22 at Greenville (SC) Swamp Rabbits
Home opener: November 5 vs. Greenville (SC) Swamp Rabbits