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Will Clay County Ever Embrace Ice Hockey?

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Posted 4/6/23

Ice hockey is incredibly popular in the US, but it is undoubtedly a regional sport and some states love it more than others. Florida is not particularly known for its ice hockey prowess and many …

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Will Clay County Ever Embrace Ice Hockey?


Ice hockey is incredibly popular in the US, but it is undoubtedly a regional sport and some states love it more than others. Florida is not particularly known for its ice hockey prowess and many wonder if the sport will ever fully take off in Clay County.

A love for sport starts at an early age and usually depends on the facilities and availability of equipment and teams that young children can join. In Clay County, and in Florida as a state, ice hockey has tough competition¾football, basketball, and baseball usually take precedence.

Below, we’ll take a look at the state of sports in Florida and Clay County to see if ice hockey has a chance or if is destined to take a backseat compared to the bright lights and money of the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

Current Florida NHL Teams

There is certainly potential for ice hockey to become popular in Clay County and Florida, the state has two NHL teams. There is also potential for plenty of sports betting fun and hot picks from these teams.

This means that if you enjoy sports betting, you can support local teams and use NHL picks site Betway or others to find decent odds and spreads. Although there aren’t any local Clay County ice hockey teams to bet on, you can support the Lightning or Panthers, or the minor league Jacksonville Icemen.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning is the older of the two Florida NHL teams and was founded in 1992. Although the team had a rough startup and poor success in the early years, they have become one of the top NHL teams and have helped push ice hockey in Florida and Clay County.

This culminated in their epic back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. Although they came up short against the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 finals, they still remain a fantastic team, led by the resurgent Steven Stamkos. According to NHL legend Brett Hull, Stamkos along with goal scoring machine Alec Ovechkin are the two current players that play the game closest to himself. This year, they are holding strong, and you could place some cheeky bets on them for their upcoming matches perhaps, or for them to secure a playoff seed.   

Florida Panthers

The Panthers are based in Miami, and due to the relatively separate locations, there isn’t as much support for the team in northern Clay County. Tampa Bay is the closest team but nonetheless, the Panthers do represent the state.

The team is currently showing decent form under the management of Bill Zito, and it seems to be returning to success. In the 2021-22 season, they won the President’s Trophy and were division champions but haven’t had any Stanley Cup success yet. In the off season they pulled off the summer’s blockbuster trade for Matthew Tkachuk from the Calgary Flames. One of the big pulls Florida based sports teams have for incoming players is the lack of state tax, a reason Brett Hull mentioned as to why Canadian teams are struggling to hold onto their players.

Current Availability of Ice Hockey in Clay County

There doesn’t seem to be a huge array of ice hockey opportunities for youngsters in Clay County, but there are a few local and school teams, like the Clay County High School ice hockey team. Due to our proximity to the state NHL teams, there doesn’t seem to be as much promotion for ice hockey, so we struggle to see how its popularity will hugely increase.

Certainly, the recent performances of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have raised awareness and exposure of the sport in the state, but ice hockey does have tough competition, especially in Clay County.

The closest hockey team to Clay County that does see decent support is the minor hockey league team¾the Jacksonville Icemen¾which are an affiliate of the New York Rangers.

Popularity of Other Sports in Florida

Other sports in Florida and Clay County generally eclipse ice hockey, and this travels down to high school level. For example, there are plenty of baseball teams, like the Clay High Blue Devils, and college football and basketball are pretty big here.

Comparatively, Florida has three NFL teams (Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars), two NBA teams (Orlando Magic and Miami Heat), two MLB teams (Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays), and two MLS teams (Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF).

As you can see, ice hockey has tough competition and traditionally, Florida has been a baseball and football state. Indeed, nearly half of the MLB teams conduct their spring training pre-season matches in Florida, which is informally known as the Grapefruit League.

There Could be Room for an Ice Hockey Invasion

Ice Hockey is certainly seeing more coverage and promotion in Clay County, with teams like the Jacksonville Icemen performing well in the minor leagues. Also, if the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers continue their excellent form, then there is no reason why the popularity of ice hockey can’t flourish.

However, there is a long way to go, and we have tough competition from the other major American sports of football, baseball, and basketball.