BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A local ownership group, South Mississippi Hockey, is awaiting approval from the Southern Professional Hockey League that would bring a team back to the Mississippi gulf coast in time for the 2016-17 season.
If the SPHL approves South Mississippi Hockey's bid to initiate another hockey club in Biloxi, the club's anticipated first game would be during a season that marks exactly 20 years since the Mississippi Sea Wolves entered the East Coast Hockey League as an expansion team.
The Sea Wolves played nine straight seasons in Biloxi, but were inactive from 2005-07 due to damages to the coliseum by Hurricane Katrina.
After returning in 2007, the Sea Wolves played two more seasons in the ECHL before suspending operations.
Hockey on the coast stayed alive that year when the Mississippi Surge joined the SPHL along with local rival teams Louisiana and Pensacola. But the Surge suspended operations following the 2013-14 season in which they earned a No. 8 seed in the playoffs but lost in the first round to the Pensacola Ice Flyers.
"We've made our official application to the SPHL," South Mississippi Hockey President Andy Makal said. "We're going through the steps that they require and we'll have good news in the near future."
While the Surge had a decent fanbase, the support for the ECHL-member Sea Wolves was much more noticable. In fact, most fans would still prefer the Sea Wolves brand make a return. However, the rights do not currently belong to South Mississippi Hockey.
The official team nickname and colors won't be established until after the approval process is completed, which is expected some time in January.
It might be a year until the SPHL returns to Biloxi, but the inaugural Battle on the Beach will take place at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum November 13-14. Teams from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tulane and Middle Tennessee will all participate.
A portion of all tickets sold will go to the teams, which are traveling considerable distances to play.
"These kids aren't NCAA scholarship kids," Makal said. "They pay their own way and it's our way to give back to them."
The USO Gulf Coast and Wounded Warriors of Mississippi will also receive a portion of money received from ticket sales.