Macon Trax

The Macon Trax hockey team had the dubious distinction of playing in a different league in each of the three years of its existence. In year one, the Trax played in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL). It was the second league to bear the name, the original version grew out of the demise of the Eastern Hockey League in 1981 and only lasted six seasons. The 2002 version of the ACHL would last only one season.

Early in the inaugural season, several teams were in financial trouble. Florida real estate investor David Waronker purchased the Orlando Seals in November. After meeting and speaking with some of the other team owners, Waronker feared that if some of the other teams folded, he would not have any teams to play against. Before long, Waronker was also the principal owner of the Macon Trax, Jacksonville Barracudas and the St. Petersburg Parrots, who relocated mid-season to Winston-Salem. The Trax, coached by former NHL player Brian Curran, had a record of 31-25-0-0-3 and finished in third place with an average attendance of 1578 per game. They would go winless in the best of five first round, losing to the eventual ACHL champion Orlando Seals. 34 different players would wear the Trax uniform that year, including nine goaltenders.
According to published reports, Waronker became increasingly unhappy with the management of the ACHL. After the season ended, Waronker filed a lawsuit, claiming the league failed to provide its players workers compensation coverage, even after having paid fees to the ACHL specifically for that purpose. A settlement was reached, allowing Waronker to pull his teams from the ACHL and start a new league, the World Hockey Association 2 (WHA2). Initially, Waronker’s plan was to move the Macon Trax franchise to Lakeland, Florida but later decided to keep a franchise in Macon, possibly due to the addition of the new franchise in the Birmingham, Alabama area. The WHA2 inaugural season fielded six teams, the Macon Trax, Jacksonville Barracudas, Lakeland Loggerheads, Miami Manatees, Orlando Seals and the Alabama Slammers. Former Macon Whoopee and Macon Trax player Tom Stewart coached the Trax to a 30-20-0-6 record for third place. The Trax defeated the Alabama Slammers in round one but lost to the Jacksonville Barracudas in the finals. Average attendance for Macon rose slightly to 1616 per game.
The WHA2 was created to serve as a developmental league for the proposed reincarnation of the old World Hockey Association. The league had moderate success, holding an all-star game in Jacksonville on January 28, with the host Jacksonville Barracudas playing a league-wide all-star team. Waronker owned or co-owned all of the teams in the league. The season was not without some turmoil. Late in the season, the Miami Manatees abandoned their home rink after exercising a clause in their lease that stated that if average attendance was under 1,500 after 20 of 32 homes games the team could play their home games elsewhere.

The proposed World Hockey Association, and more importantly its support of the teams in the WHA2 never materialized, leading Waronker to announce in April that the WHA2 teams would leave the league to join the newly created Eastern Hockey League (EHL), based in North Carolina. In addition, the EHL picked up two franchises from the South East Hockey League and was ultimately renamed the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). After the reorganization, the inaugural season of the SPHL consisted of eight teams: Macon Trax, Columbus Cottonmouths, Huntsville Havoc, Fayetteville FireAntz, Asheville Aces, Winston-Salem Polar Twins, Jacksonville Barracudas and the Knoxville Ice Bears.

The Trax were once again coached by Tom Stewart, and after finishing the season tied for second place with a 33-23-0-0 record, got a bye in the first round of the SPHL playoffs. The Trax then defeated Jacksonville in the semi-finals but would lose the first two games in the best of three finals to their in-state rivals the Columbus Cottonmouths.

Despite an increased attendance of 1,895 fans per game, the Macon Trax would never skate again. The players were dispersed via a draft to the two new teams entering the SPHL for the 2005-06 season, the Pee Dee Cyclones and the Florida Seals.
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