by Kevin Earley, Alfred University intern
Hockey in Elmira has a storied history to it that most people wouldn’t really think about. From going to the domes in Pine Valley to watch the Elmira College teams play to weekend nights down at First Arena cheering on the professionals, there have been some memorable times for the sport in our neck of the woods.
The UHL began to struggle in the mid-2000s, and in April of 2007 the Jackals joined the ECHL, which is the league two levels down from the National Hockey League and is the NHL’s Double-A affiliate league. The Jackals enjoyed some early success in the ECHL, making the playoffs for their first six years in the league while serving as the primary AA affiliate of teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks, and Ottawa Senators of the NHL. There was a lot of instability, however, due to ownership changes and financial struggles for the team come 2013. In 2014, things seemed to be looking up when the Jackals became the ECHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, but those good vibes did not last long as most of Elmira’s talent didn’t really stick around long enough to create a solid team that could compete for a championship, let alone a playoff spot at all. Come 2017, they were owned by the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), and as a result of low attendance and arena issues the Jackals folded after playing their final game on April 8th, 2017.
Once again, the future of hockey in Elmira was in a cloud of uncertainty. With an arena that had not been properly maintained and with a lack of consistent management, it looked as if professional hockey was done here. However, the arena was leased out and taken over by Steve Donner. It re-opened in December of 2021 under his management for public skating and recreational hockey and it was announced in April of this year that a new FPHL team, the Elmira Mammoth, will be beginning play this coming fall.
Elmira’s hockey history has had many great moments as well as moments that were not so great, and it’s very interesting to look at how much hockey has impacted Chemung County as a whole. It has given the community a lot of exciting memories from the thrilling fights and goals to simply being able to take the family out to the hockey game on a Friday or Saturday night. It’ll be very interesting to see what the future holds for the sport in Elmira.