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The Roanoke Express were a team in the ECHL from 1993 until 2004. Home games were played at the Roanoke Civic Centermarker in Roanoke, Virginiamarker.


Roanoke Valley's first minor league ice hockey team, called the Salem Rebels, played its inaugural season at the Salem Civic Centermarker in the 1967-1968 season with Jim Jago as team captain. The first season had some sparse crowds of less than 1,000 in the 4,848 seat arena. Over the next few years, the team developed a fanbase and a number of games were sold out. In 1971, the team moved to the newly built Roanoke Civic Center near downtown Roanoke and were renamed the Roanoke Valley Rebels.

For most of the 1980s and early 1990s, various teams such as the Virginia Lancers and Roanoke Valley Rampage played in a custom built facility called the LancerLot in Vintonmarker. The Virginia Lancers were owned by Henry Brabham, who also owned a chain of convenience stores named Lancer Mart. The roof of the LancerLot collapsed as a result of heavy snowfall during the Blizzard of 1993 resulting in hockey moving back to the Roanoke Civic Center.

Joining the ECHL

The Express proved to be a success both on the ice and in drawing more fans than previous hockey teams in the Roanoke Valley. During the mid to late 1990s, some crowds nearly filled the over 9,000 seat civic center. In 1995-1996, average attendance was 5,679. The team's hard-nosed style of play reflected their coach, Frank Anzalone, who later coached the ECHL's Johnstown Chiefs. The Express typically had outstanding goalkeeping with Daniel Berthiaume and Dave Gagnon. The team continued to be successful, and in fact reached new heights, after Anzalone left for the Lowell Lock Monsters and was replaced by Scott Gordon.

However, by the early 2000s, the novelty of hockey in the Roanoke Civic Center had worn off and the team's inability to advance deep into the playoffs led to a frustrated fanbase and sagging attendance. Turmoil in management and ownership contributed to bad press for the team and less effective marketing than in the team's early years. The Express folded after the 2003-2004 season.

Future of hockey in Roanoke

While the failure of the Roanoke Valley Vipers has ended professional hockey in the Roanoke Valley for the time being, the Southern Professional Hockey League would likely be the most promising candidate to bring hockey back in the near future. Nearly all of the cities with SPHL teams once had ECHL franchises.

Notable players

External links

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