Sandy Springs now has its own hockey team.
The Atlanta Capitals of the North American Tier III Hockey League plan to play their upcoming season at the Center Ice Arena on Roswell Road.
On June 17, team owner Don Stone, Coach Anthony Bohn and assistant coaches Vinny Bohn and Ryan Terrana gathered at the arena to make draft selections for the fall season. They drafted 11 players onto a protected list.
Bohn started curating a list of names in January. These players agreed to play for the Atlanta Capitals if they didn’t make a top tier team or decide to play for a college. More than half the names were California residents. Only two were Atlantans.
Anthony Harris, of Michigan, was the first draft pick in round one for the Atlanta Capitals.
Stone said he bought his first hockey team, a Tier II team, in Topeka, Kan., six years ago. He started a Tier III team, the Topeka Capitals, two years ago. An active member of the hockey community, Stone said he talked with Center Ice Arena owners during construction about bringing a junior hockey team to his hometown.
“Originally, I was going to have two Tier III teams,” Stone said, describing how an ending lease agreement led him to bring his Topeka Capitals to Atlanta. “We’ll probably start a new team in Topeka next year.”
The Atlanta Capitals is a junior hockey team where players aged 17 to 20 pay $8,000 per 22-game season. The cost includes coaching, ice time and travel.“Tier 3 is what they call ‘pay-to-play’ so kids pay me to play on the team,” Stone said.
After the draft, the Capitals had a group of 32 “protected players” on the roster, of which 25 will become a team before training starts in mid August, Stone said. At the opening game, on Sept. 18, a total of 20 players will dress to play. Season tickets are on sale for $99.
Players in the junior league look to play for colleges and universities, Stone said. Those who don’t leave the league to play for college, filter down from top tier teams.
Most kids this age are looking to play at a college level more than they are thinking about professional careers, Stone said.
In the Southern division, the Atlanta Capitals’ closest competitor is in Huntsville, Alabama, Stone said. There is a team in Nashville, one in Cincinnati and one in Evansville, Indiana, he added. The rest of the division is in Texas, in the cities of Dallas and Houston.
One of two assistant coaches, Ryan Terrana, is an Atlanta native who grew up playing hockey for Stone.
“Funny enough, Don was my first-ever hockey coach,” he said.
Terrana played in Duluth, and grew with a small network of players whom he considered a community, he said. He said he started helping Stone with his Topeka team two years ago and felt extremely fortunate to be available to step in as an assistant coach this year in Atlanta.
He said when people watch hockey they get hooked on it.
“The best sport to see in person is hockey,” Terrana said. “Once they see in person how it’s got all sports kind of combined into one, they’re hooked.”
The reason fans will get excited about junior hockey, Terrana said, is because the players are passionate.
“We have kids who really want it. Not burned-out professionals,” he said. “When they want it, they chase it passionately so it’s exciting hockey.”