Art Clarkson, the former owner of the Birmingham Bulls during a 1992-2001 ECHL stint, is working to bring the team back to life as part of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL).
Clarkson has already signed a lease at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena and has applied to join the 10-team SPHL, which would allow for regional rivalries with the likes of the Knoxville Ice Bears and the Huntsville Havoc.
There’s a long history behind the Birmingham Bulls name: teams played under that name earlier in the World Hockey Association from 1976-79 and the Central Hockey League from 1979-81. Those were pretty physical teams; as Birmingham coach in 1977, Glen Sonmor was known for inciting physical play, and the CHL was known for its many fighters and enforcers as well. (Dave Hanson, who achieved greater fame as a Carlson brother in Slap Shot, had a stint in Birmingham.)
The original Bulls played at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center, and Clarkson did talk with officials about a return there. But in the end the decision was made to play at Pelham, where officials promised upgraded locker rooms and more seating. From AL.com:
Pelham Mayor Gary Waters said that it’s the perfect time for professional hockey to return to the Birmingham area.
“The Bulls played when hockey hadn’t quite caught on. People went to games more out of curiosity. But now hockey is one of the top five top growing sports in the country,” he said, also mentioning that Pelham has numerous hockey leagues for different age groups and serves as the home ice rink for the Alabama and UAB club hockey teams.
“When the Bulls came, it was before time. Now is the perfect time,” Waters said.
Clarkson, who was most recently involved with arena football in Green Bay, says he has interest from investors regarding the new franchise.