The Columbus Cottonmouths were a professional ice hockey team based in Columbus, Georgia. The team is nicknamed the Snakes and played their home games at the Columbus Civic Center. In 2017, the team suspended operations after failing to find a new owner.
|Founded||1996 (In the CHL)|
|Home arena||Columbus Civic Center|
|Colors||Blue, gold, black, white|
|General manager||Jerome Bechard|
|Head coach||Jerome Bechard|
|First franchise (CHL)|
|Second franchise (ECHL)|
|1989–2000||Hampton Roads Admirals|
|Never played||Gulf Coast Swords|
|Third franchise (SPHL)|
|Regular season titles||2 (1997–98, 2006–07)|
|Division Championships||3 (1997–98, 1999–00, 2000–01)|
|Playoff championships||3 (1997–98, 2004–05, 2011–12)|
Central Hockey League (CHL): 1996–2001
In 1996, the Columbus Cottonmouths started play in the Central Hockey League, 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 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 and 2001 before losing to the Indianapolis Ice and the Oklahoma City Blazers, respectively. In the summer of 2001, the CHL merged with the Western Professional Hockey League and geographic rivals in Huntsville and Macon were lost, leading the Cottonmouths to seek and obtain entry into the East Coast Hockey League.
DVA Sports, composed of owners Salvador Diaz-Verson and Shelby Amos, purchased the defunct Hampton Roads Admirals ECHL franchise, relocating it to Columbus under the Cottonmouths name.
East Coast Hockey League (ECHL): 2001–2004
From 2001 to 2004, the Columbus Cottonmouths organization played in the ECHL, bringing with them their longtime 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. Midway 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 enforcer 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 (SPHL): 2004–2017
In 2004, the Columbus Cottonmouths organization joined the Southern Professional Hockey League as one of its inaugural members. Led by first year coach, and Columbus hockey legend Jerome Bechard, the team won the first 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.
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 the series three games to one. In 2008, 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, 6–0.
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. In June, the new potential ownership was confirmed as Residential World Media, headed by Fidel Jenkins, and that the purchase was still in negotiations with the SPHL. However, it was also stated that the Cottonmouths branding would not be included in the purchase and would instead be called the Columbus Burn. In August, the league terminated the application of the Burn to join the league.
Central Hockey League
|1996–97||66||32||28||6||70||4th, East||Lost in Quarter Finals|
|1997–98||70||51||13||6||108||1st, East||Won Levins Cup|
|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
|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
|2004–05||56||30||26||—||60||5th||Won President's Cup|
|2009–10||56||22||27||2||48||6th||Lost First Round|
|2011–12||56||35||16||5||75||2nd||Won President's Cup|
|2015–16||56||19||29||8||46||9th||Did not qualify|
- Head Coach – Jerome Bechard
- Athletic Trainer – Adam Norman
- Equipment Manager – Mike Nash
|1997–98||CHL||William "Bill" Levins Memorial Cup|
|1997–98||CHL||Adams Cup (Regular Season Champion)|
|1997–98||CHL||Eastern Division Champions|
|1999–2000||CHL||Eastern Division Champions|
|2000–01||CHL||Eastern Division Champions|
|2006–07||SPHL||Commissioner's Cup (Regular Season Champion)|
- "Columbus Cottonmouths' bus involved in rollover crash; 24 people hospitalized". Yahoo Sports. January 19, 2017.
- "Columbus Cottonmouths owner looks to sell team; searching for new ownership". WTVM. March 2, 2017.
- "Amos family selling Cottonmouths, cites financial losses". WTVM. March 3, 2017.
- "Cottonmouths to cease operation if new owner can't be found, Wanda Amos says". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. March 2, 2017.
- "Cottonmouths to suspend operations for next season". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. May 3, 2017.
- "New owner purchasing Columbus pro hockey affiliation from SPHL". WRBL. June 20, 2017.
- "Future looks bright for hockey in Columbus". WTVM. June 21, 2017.
- "Columbus Burn attempt to get SPHL franchise goes up in smoke". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. August 10, 2017.
- "Team owners reveal name, logo of new hockey team coming to Columbus". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. May 21, 2019.
- Columbus Cottonmouths (Official website)