Everblades fans pose for a picture with the Kelly Cup. Photo courtesy of Jamie Goldman.

Everblades Celebrate Back-to-Back Kelly Cups

Florida is best known for its sunny skies, beautiful beaches and ice hockey, of course. The Florida Everblades just won their second consecutive Kelly Cup, making them back-to-back champions of the ECHL.

The Everblades have been one of the most successful teams in minor league hockey. In 25 seasons, the Blades have only failed to qualify for the playoffs twice, and one of those times was due to COVID canceling the remainder of the season.

The championship celebration was Tuesday night at the home of the Everblades, Hertz Arena. The event was an opportunity for fans to come out and enjoy some music, bounce houses and celebrate the Everblades championship. Fans also had the chance to get their picture taken with the Kelly Cup and various team players and coaches.

Keys to Success

“Our coaches are the best,” said Belinda Hanley, president of the Everblades fan club. Brad Ralph has been the head coach of the team since 2017. Hanley has worked alongside Ralph for multiple years, and says Ralph is so caring both on and off the ice. In Ralph’s six full seasons with Florida, they have made the playoffs every season and qualified for three Kelly Cups, winning two of them. 

In addition to coaching, a big part of the Everblades’ success is their players are rooted in the community. Multiple minor league teams see players constantly filtering in and out of the team. Minor league players often treat their team as a pit stop, hoping to be called up or moved to a better opportunity. However, that is not the case with the team. The Blades have been able to keep the same group of core players together for multiple seasons, and Everblades game experience manager, Meagan Johnson, says this has “made the team.”

Blades Community

On top of the players being involved, the organization engages the community with the team. One example of that is having a local sing the national anthem before each game. A’layahna Checo graduated from FGCU in 2023 and has been an Everblades fan her whole life. She was the Everblades anthem singer before each home game in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Checo even sung the Canadian national anthem, as well, when the Blades faced the Newfoundland Growlers in the conference finals. “The energy was great, ” said Checo.

Everblades national anthem singer, A’layahna Checo, enjoying the Kelly Cup celebration. Photo courtesy of Jamie Goldman

Her favorite memory with the Everblades was singing the national anthem for the closeout game of the Kelly Cup.

“That was an amazing experience that I cannot replace,” said Checo. She describes the Everblades fanbase as “amazing”

Not to be confused with the Florida Everglades, the Blades have become an integral part of the southwest Florida community. Hundreds of fans piled into Hertz Arena Tuesday to celebrate their Everblades becoming back-to-back champions of the ECHL. The success of the team and the growth of the fanbase go hand in hand when it comes to the Everblades. As Florida has continued to win, the fanbase has expanded. Inversely, the fan base has continued to grow, thus motivating the team to keep winning.

Checo said, “Let’s go for three next season.” 


About Jamie Goldman