Fayetteville Marksmen

The Fayetteville Marksmen are a professional minor league ice hockey team based in Fayetteville, North Carolina. They currently play in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL)[2] and play their home games in the Crown Coliseum.

Fayetteville Marksmen
2019–20 SPHL season
CityFayetteville, North Carolina
LeagueSouthern Professional Hockey League
Home arenaCrown Coliseum
ColorsBlack, orange, olive, cream
Owner(s)Chuck Norris[1]
Head coachJesse Kallechy
MediaThe Fayetteville Observer
Franchise history
2002–2004Cape Fear FireAntz
2004–2017Fayetteville FireAntz
2017–presentFayetteville Marksmen
Regular season titles1 (2012–13)
Playoff championships1 (2007)

The team, originally known as the Cape Fear FireAntz, began play in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League in the 2002–03 season. After the league's collapse, they joined the South East Hockey League for the 2003–04 season and then what would become the SPHL in 2004 as the Fayetteville FireAntz. Since their inception, they have won the 2007 SPHL championship and made a number of playoff appearances.


ACHL and SEHL years

The team, then known as the Cape Fear FireAntz, joined the fledgling Atlantic Coast Hockey League for the 2002–03 season. Their first coach was Shawn Ulrich. After the season David Waronker announced he was withdrawing his four teams from the unstable league to form the World Hockey Association 2. The FireAntz and other remaining ACHL teams formed the South East Hockey League. They played the SEHL for the 2003–04 season, with Scott Rex serving as coach.


Fayetteville FireAntz

In 2004, teams from the SEHL and WHA2 joined together to form the league now known as the Southern Professional Hockey League. The FireAntz joined the new league, changing their name to Fayetteville FireAntz, abandoning the reference to the nearby Cape Fear River. Derek Booth took over as head coach in 2004 and after two seasons behind the bench, he left to coach the Bloomington Prairie Thunder of the United Hockey League.

In the 2006–07 season, under the guidance of head coach John Marks, the FireAntz advanced to the finals of the league's post-season playoffs for the first time in team history. The first two games of the best-of-five finals were won by Fayetteville on the FireAntz' home ice, before the series returned to Jacksonville, Florida, where the Jacksonville Barracudas won game three of the series by a 3-2 score. The FireAntz won the fourth game of the series by a score of 5-3 to win the President's Cup. It was the first championship for the FireAntz, and Fayetteville's first professional sports championship in 51 years. Head coach Marks resigned after the team's championship run to take the head coach position with the Pensacola Ice Pilots of the ECHL. Shortly after Marks' resignation the FireAntz announced that former Florida Seals coach, Tommy Stewart, had been hired to coach the team for the 2007–2008 season.

Tommy Stewart was let go after the 2010–11 season and was soon replaced by Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees' assistant coach, Sean Gillam.[3] Gillam would only last partway through the season; on February 17, 2012, the FireAntz replaced him with Todd Bidner.[4]

Mark DeSantis was hired prior to the 2012–13 season. He led the team to regular season record in the league and won William B. Coffey Trophy and the SPHL's Coach of the Year. However, he left the team after only one season to become the head coach of an expansion team in his hometown, the Brampton Beast.

Greg McCauley was then hired to replace DeSantis for the 2013–14 season but resigned for personal reasons after 32 games. He was replaced by Emery Olauson, who was then kept on until the end of the 2014–15 season.[5]

On May 26, 2015, Jeff Bes was hired as the head coach prior to the 2015–16 season.[6]

Fayetteville Marksmen

On February 13, 2017, Jeffrey M. Longo was hired as the general manager. Later in the 2016–17 season, Longo and local entrepreneur Chuck Norris purchased the FireAntz from the seven-person ownership group, Cape Fear Pro Hockey.[7] At the end of the season, the new owners changed the name of the FireAntz to the Fayetteville Marksmen.[8] The change reflects the city of Fayetteville's relationship with the local United States Army post, Fort Bragg, as well as the native Carolina red fox.

In June 2017, head coach Jeff Bes decided to not re-sign with the team to be closer to his family.[9] He was replaced by Nick Mazzolini but only lasted until November 23 when he was replaced by Phil Esposito, the recent head coach of the Watertown Wolves.[10] Esposito would also last less than season and was relieved of duties on February 21, 2018, after a 5–19–4 record and in last place in the SPHL. John Bierchen took over as head coach on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.[11] The Marksmen then hired Jesse Kallechy as the permanent head coach for the 2018–19 season.[12]


2006–07SPHLPresident's Cup
2012–13SPHLCoffey Trophy


2004–05SPHLDerek BoothCoach of the Year
2004–05SPHLChad CollinsRookie of the Year
2005–06SPHLMike ClarkeDefenseman of the Year
2006–07SPHLTim VelemirovichRookie of the Year
2006–07SPHLRob SichSPHL MVP
2006–07SPHLJohn MarksCoach of the Year
2006–07SPHLChad CollinsSPHL Playoff MVP
2012–13SPHLJosh McQuadeSPHL MVP
2012–13SPHLAndrew SmaleDefenseman of the Year
2012–13SPHLMark DeSantisCoach of the Year
2016–17SPHLSean BonarSPHL MVP and Goaltender of the Year


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