Introduction

Unless you are a serious student of hockey history, you may simply assume that the first professional hockey game played in Georgia was the Atlanta Flames' first home game at The Omni on October 14, 1972, when the Flames played the Buffalo Sabres to a 1-1 tie before a sellout crowd of 14,568. In actuality, the first hockey game was played almost four years earlier. Until The Omni was constructed, Atlanta did not have a facility capable of hosting a hockey game. 


During the mid-1960's, the Eastern Hockey League's Jacksonville Rockets played some of their home games in St. Petersburg's Bayfront Center. The team even changed its name to the Florida Rockets for the 1966-67 campaign, as they had also planned to play some games in West Palm Beach, but construction delays scuttled those plans. The Rockets were once again the Jacksonville Rockets by the start of the 1968-69 season, but instead of using the Bayfront Center as their alternate home rink, they entered into an agreement with Bill Lavery, who was the former Jacksonville Coliseum manager, to play six home games in the Macon Coliseum.





Wide angle lens view of the interior of the Macon Coliseum, October 30, 1968. Photo courtesy of Ned Fellers.

Following the the 1968-69 season, Macon was considered as a possible home for an Eastern Hockey League (EHL) franchise but it would be several years before professional hockey came back to Macon, following the demise of the EHL and its subsequent reorganization into two separate leagues: the North American Hockey League (NAHL), which fielded eleven different teams in the northeast during its four year history, and the Southern Hockey League (SHL), with its ten teams during a brief three and a half year existence.







As a result of Lavery's connection with Jacksonville, the first professional hockey game ever played in the state of Georgia took place on October 30, 1968 in the brand new Macon Coliseum. The Jacksonville Rockets defeated the Nashville Dixie Flyers 5-2.