The Long Beach Ice Dogs hockey team was a popular attraction for over a decade at the Long Beach Arena from 1995-2007, and their shuttering almost 15 years ago left a big hole in the local sports scene. While they aren’t in the same category as the Ice Dogs, a new hockey team has emerged in the city: the Long Beach Shredders.
The junior hockey team, which began its inaugural season last week, is competing in the Pacific Division of the United States Premier Hockey League.
The other teams in the division alongside the Shredders are: The Fresno Monsters, Lake Tahoe Lakers, Las Vegas Thunderbirds, Ontario Jr. Reign, and San Diego Sabers.
Emerson Etem, a Long Beach native who was drafted 29th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks, purchased the Anaheim Avalanche in the offseason and moved the team to Long Beach, where he rebranded the organization.
“The league was putting a cap on the number of teams and I knew I had to buy a team,” Etem said.
Etem, who played 173 games in six seasons with the Ducks, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks, was previously the head coach and general manager of the Missoula Jr. Bruins in the NA3HL, another junior hockey league.
There are three tiers to junior hockey–the USPHL is in Tier 3 and Etem said the league is a “pathway” for the kids to play in college.
The league has a full season from September to February and is available for hockey players who are between the ages of 16-20.
While it’s a risky time to purchase an organization during the COVID-19 pandemic and with other teams such as the Armada and Breakers (both baseball) folding in Long Beach throughout the years, Etem said the team will always survive because it’s a “pay to play” model for the players.
“The players pay for their equipment and have a set fee that they pay for travel,” Etem said. “The bonus attendance is a cherry on top but a big part of the budget is the player fees.”
The team has a sponsorship with Gold’s Gym SoCal and works out in the morning before hitting the ice from 9:45-11 a.m. for practices.
The team practices and will play all of their home games at Lakewood Ice.
The Shredders have three games per week, normally Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and tickets are $11 for adults, $6 for military, students, and children (ages six and up), and free for children under five.
“We don’t have a capacity limit (fans have to wear a mask) and this past weekend was our home opener and each night was a massive success,” Etem said. “It’s cheaper entertainment that doesn’t break the bank.”
Etem said the team had an event at a recent farmers market where there was street hockey and merchandise for sale and are looking for other ways to “maximize all areas” to market the Shredders.
The Shredders return home this Friday and Saturday to host the San Diego Sabers for a two-game series, with both games starting at 7 p.m. at Lakewood Ice.