TWO KELLY CUP CHAMPIONSHIPS, THREE WESTERN CONFERENCE TITLES, 25 PLAYERS ADVANCING TO THE NHL AND AN AVERAGE OF 41 WINS PER SEASON IN THE ECHL ERA.
Since joining the ECHL for the 2003-04 season, the Idaho Steelheads have been synonymous with success. The team has reached at least the conference semifinals in six of the past nine seasons and hoisted the Kelly Cup in 2004 and 2007, narrowly missing out in 2010.
It all started in 1996, when Idaho’s professional hockey team was officially named the Idaho Steelheads. The process to name Idaho’s newest professional sports franchise began in the spring of 1996 with the “Pepsi Name The Team Sweepstakes” that gave consumers throughout Southern Idaho the chance to vote for their favorite team name. The original 25,000 entry blank were quickly consumed forcing a second printing to meet the tremendous demand. Season ticket holders were then given the opportunity to make the final decision between Steelheads and Ice Hawks in the “Pepsi Final Vote.” The name Steelheads comes from a sea-run rainbow trout usually returning to freshwater to spawn, found in rivers throughout Idaho. Rainbow trout and steelhead trout are the same species.
The original Steelheads logo was designed by Blake Thorton from Hailey, Idaho. Thorton’s winning logo was chosen following a contest that featured the top graphic artists in the state of Idaho. Thorton’s design was named “logo of the Year’ in 1998 in on line voting by hockey fans at the In The Crease online magazine website. The voting began with logos from every team in professional hockey, including the National Hockey League, and was narrowed to 20 finalists, the top two teams from each league and four wild card entrants.
The team initially competed in the West Coast Hockey League where it won three division titles and twice advanced to the Taylor Cup final before joining the ECHL for the 2003-04 season. In that first season in the ECHL, the Steelheads – led by future NHL’ers Zenon Konopka and Dan Ellis – stormed through the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs and past the Florida Everblades to claim the championship.
Idaho’s 2007 championship team was led by goaltender Steve Silverthorn, who set an ECHL record with 16 wins between the pipes as Idaho went 16-6 during the run to its second Kelly Cup title.
The team has consistently averaged at least 4,000 fans per game in the 5,006-capacity Idaho Central Arena, located in the heart of Boise, the state capital of Idaho. Averaging at least 80 percent of capacity has Idaho among the ECHL leaders in attendance percentage of capacity, creating a home-ice advantage that is among the best in the league. The Steelheads have long prided themselves on providing a vibrance to downtown Boise, annually bringing more than 160,000 people not only to Idaho Central Arena but also to the restaurants, bars, hotels and shops that surround it, generating millions upon millions of dollars for the local economy.
Since the early days in the former West Coast Hockey League, the Steelheads have always been highly regarded as a top-notch, professional sports team. Today, as members of the premier ‘AA’ minor hockey league-the ECHL, the Steelheads have continued to bolster their major league reputation.
“The main goal even before our inaugural season was to be a first class organization on and off the ice,” said General Manager, Eric Trapp. “We feel our identity communicates the continued professional approach we employ on game nights, while also reflecting our love for Boise, Idaho as our hometown.”
List of Players to Advance from Idaho to the NHL:
Richard Bachman; Jay Beagle; Landon Bow; Matt Climie; Richard Clune; BJ Crombeen; Justin Dowling; Dan Ellis; Brian Fahey; Aaron Gagnon; Luke Gazdic; Justin Johnson; Zenon Konopka; Maxime Lagace; Gavin Morgan; Kael Mouillierat; Steven Oleksy; Ben Ondrus; Warren Peters; Greg Rallo; Gemel Smith; Tom Wandell; Francis Wathier; Jeremy Yablonski; Matt Zaba