Ice Hockey Wiki
Columbus Cottonmouths
Columbus Cottonmouths logo 2016.gif
City: Columbus, Georgia, United States
League: Southern Professional Hockey League
Founded: 1996
Operated: 1996-2017
Home Arena: Columbus Civic Center
Colors: black, blue, gold
Owner(s): Wanda Amos
General Manager: Jerome Bechard
Head Coach: Jerome Bechard
Media: SportsRadio 1580 The Zone (WEAM-AM)
Regular Season Titles: 1997-98 Adams Cup (CHL)
2006-07 Commissioner's Cup (SPHL)
SPHL President's Cup: 2004-05
Playoff Championships: 1997-98 William “Bill” Levins Memorial Cup (CHL)

The Columbus Cottonmouths were a professional ice hockey team based in Columbus, Georgia, United States. The team was nicknamed as the "Snakes", and played their home games at the Columbus Civic Center.

In early March 2017, the owner of the Columbus Cottonmouths, who had been trying to sell the team, announced that the team will cease operations after the 2016-17 season if a new owner is not found.  The team was reported to be in the process of being sold, however; it would not be in time to keep the team active for the 2017-18 season as the team announced they were suspending operations for the 2017-18 season. From their 1996 founding until their 2017 folding, the Cottonmouths were the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey team in the state of Georgia.

Central Hockey League

In 1996, the Columbus Cottonmouths started play in the Central Hockey League (CHL), joining the Macon Whoopee and Nashville Nighthawks as expansion entries that were originally slated to be in the Southern Hockey League before its demise in the summer of 1996. Along with the Memphis RiverKings, an established CHL franchise, and the Huntsville Channel Cats, the Southern Hockey League (SHL) champion in 1996 and the lone surviving franchise from that league, Columbus and the other two expansion SHL teams formed the new Eastern Division of the CHL in the 1996-97 season. In 1998, the team won the CHL championship, defeating the Wichita Thunder in a four-game sweep. The Cottonmouths were in the CHL playoffs each of their five seasons in the league, making it to the league finals in 2000 before losing to the Indianapolis Ice and in 2001 before falling to the Oklahoma City Blazers. In the summer of 2001, the CHL merged with the Western Professional Hockey League (WPHL) and geographic rivalries in Huntsville and Macon were lost, leading the Cottonmouths to seek and obtain entry into the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).

East Coast Hockey League

From 2001-2004 the Columbus Cottonmouths played in the ECHL, bringing with them their long time Captain Jerome "Boom-Boom" Bechard and Head Coach Bruce Garber. In the three seasons that Columbus spent in the ECHL, they failed to make the playoffs. Mid-way through their second season in the ECHL, Garber, the only coach in team history, resigned. General Manager Phil Roberto took over for the remainder of the season. Their best season in the ECHL was their last. Prior to the 2003-04 season the team announced the signing of their new Coach, former NHL tough guy Brian Curran. They finished with a 37-27-8 record, tied with the Greensboro Generals for the best record by a non-playoff team that season. In April 2004, the Cottonmouths management announced their intentions to move their ECHL franchise to the Bradenton-Sarasota area in Florida. The team, which was later named the Gulf Coast Swords, would never come to fruition as financial setbacks delayed the construction of their to-be home arena. Finally, after foreclosure on the arena property and numerous delays, the ECHL revoked the Swords franchise in the league in the summer of 2006.

Southern Professional Hockey League

Since 2004 the Columbus Cottonmouths have played as a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Led by first year Coach, and Columbus hockey legend Jerome Bechard, the team won the inaugural SPHL championship in April 2005 by first winning a one game playoff against the Fayetteville FireAntz by a 4-2 score. They next swept the regular season champion Knoxville Ice Bears to advance to the league finals, which they won against the Macon Trax with two straight victories, ending with a 3-2 overtime win. The Snakes' victory capped an undefeated postseason in which they won five games without losing a single contest.

In 2006, the Cottonmouths finished with the second-best regular season record in the league but were ousted in the first round of the playoffs two games to one by the Huntsville Havoc.

In 2007 the Columbus team won the SPHL Commissioner's Cup as the team with the best season record, but was ousted in the first round of playoffs by the Jacksonville Barracudas, who won three games to the Cottonmouths' one victory.

In 2008, the Cottonmouths ironically relied on the team that would oust them from the playoffs to get them into the playoffs. On the last day of the regular season, the Knoxville Ice Bears defeated the Huntsville Havoc to give the Snakes the sixth and final playoff berth, which would pit them against first-place Knoxville. The home team won every contest of the best-of-five series with Columbus recovering from an 0-2 deficit with a pair of home wins before losing the deciding contest in Knoxville. The Snakes' 22-24-6 regular-season record was a Columbus hockey team's first losing record since 2002–03 and the first one by a non-ECHL team.

On April 14, 2012, the Cottonmouths won their second President's Cup championship with a two-game sweep of the Pensacola Ice Flyers. The Snakes won game one 3-2 at home and then completed the championship series with a 3-1 road victory over the Ice Flyers. The Cottonmouths went undefeated in the playoffs.

On January 19, 2017, the bus carrying the Cottonmouths was involved in a rollover on I-74 on the way to play the Peoria Rivermen. 24 players and staff were injured in the accident.In March 2017, it was announced that owners Wanda and Shelby Amos were selling the team and that general manager and head coach Bechard was in charge of looking for a buyer. The Amos' cited mounting financial losses as their reason for trying to sell the team and that they would cease operations if a new buyer is not found. On May 3, 2017, the team official suspended operations for the 2017–18 season. However, SPHL commissioner Jim Combs confirmed that negotiations with a potential ownership were still on-going but would only be ready for the 2018–19 season if the ownership transfer was successful.

Columbus Cottonmouths logo

Columbus Cottonmouths 20th anniversary logo

Season-by-season records

Central Hockey League

Season GP W L T Pts Finish Playoffs
1996–97 66 32 28 6 70 4th, East Lost in Quarter Finals
1997–98 70 51 13 6 108 1st, East Won Championship
1998–99 70 42 21 7 91 2nd, East Lost in Division Finals
1999–00 70 39 20 11 89 2nd, East Lost Miron Cup Finals
2000–01 70 41 21 8 90 2nd, East Lost Miron Cup Finals

East Coast Hockey League

Season GP W L RT PTS Finish Playoffs
2001–02 72 24 37 11 59 8th, Southeast Did not qualify
2002–03 72 25 39 8 58 7th, Southeast Did not qualify
2003–04 72 41 21 8 82 5th, Central Did not qualify

Southern Professional Hockey League

Season GP W L OTL PTS Finish Playoffs
2004–05 56 30 26 60 5th Won President's Cup
2005–06 56 34 16 6 74 2nd Lost Quarterfinals
2006–07 56 36 18 2 74 1st Lost Quarterfinals
2007–08 52 22 24 6 50 6th Lost Quarterfinals
2008–09 60 31 22 7 69 2nd Lost Semifinals
2009–10 56 22 27 2 48 6th Lost First Round
2010–11 56 29 27 58 4th Lost Semifinals
2011–12 56 35 16 5 75 2nd Won President's Cup
2012–13 56 28 24 4 60 5th Lost Quarterfinals
2013–14 56 27 26 3 57 6th Lost Finals
2014–15 56 33 19 4 70 2nd Lost Semifinals
2015–16 56 19 29 8 46 9th Did not qualify
2016-17 56 22 30 4 48 8th Lost Quarterfinals


Year League Trophy
2006-2007 SPHL Commissioner's Cup (Regular season Champion)
2004-2005 SPHL President's Cup
1997-1998 CHL William “Bill” Levins Memorial Cup
1997-1998 CHL Adams Cup (Regular season Champion)

Retired Numbers

# Name Retired
16 Jerome Bechard 1996-2003 2004  
30 Frankie Ouellette 1997-2001 2006  

External links

Usflag.jpg Ice hockey in United States Usflag.jpg
National Hockey League
High Level: American Hockey League
Mid Level: ECHLCentral Hockey LeagueInternational Hockey League
Low Level: Mid-Atlantic Hockey LeagueSouthern Professional Hockey League
Semi-Professional: North Eastern Hockey League
Collegiate: National Collegiate Athletic Association
Men's National TeamWomen's National Team

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